From “Me” to “Us”

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Track the pronouns in this psalm. Sometimes the main pronoun is the first person singular, sometimes it is the second or third person plural. That is, in some parts it is, “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge.” In other places, it is, “How abundant is your goodness, which you have…worked for those who take refuge in you.” Sometimes it is “I trust the Lord.” Other times it is “Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful…” In this, David moves from praying about “me” the Lord’s anointed to praying about “us” the Lord’s people. This isn’t just some weird poetic thing. This is David setting himself up as the example. This is how God deals with His anointed, the head of His people. Therefore, this is how God deals with all His people. Especially when we get to the ending thoughts. David’s point is, “Look at me, people! Do you see how God has demonstrated himself faithful and loving with me? Do you see how God did deliver? I get it, I had some troubles along the way. But do you see how it ended? The same will be true for you. Hang on through the trouble. Stay faithful. Through me, God has proved Himself faithful.” We should see the same principle in our King. After all, a disciple is not above the teacher but when fully trained will become like the teacher. Do you remember what happened with Jesus? He was persecuted. He was afflicted. It even seemed that the hands of the enemies prevailed against Him. However, on the third day, He burst forth from the grave victorious. That is how the Lord gave victory to our King. We too, though the hand of the enemy seems to prevail, perhaps even killing us, will be victorious. We will also burst forth from the grave. So, commit your spirit into the Lord’s hand and hang on to Him no matter what.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Are You Sure You Trust the Lord?

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

“I trusted the Lord and look where it got me,” says the person who went to church for a while, started obeying the Lord, but then faced a hardship and decided to jump ship. Let me ask you this. Which of the following most demonstrates trust in the Lord? Doing what the Lord says when everything is going your way and turning out exactly as you expected or doing what the Lord says when everything is still going against you and it is not turning out how you expected? David is in some hardship. Enemies have laid a trap for him. He is afflicted and distressed. He has become a reproach to his neighbors, his acquaintances, and even perfect strangers because of his enemies. He is facing terror on every side and the schemes of those who plot to take his life. And all of this has caused his eyes, his body, and his soul to waste away because of how long it has been going on. Yet, he says, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.'” It is one thing to say, “I trust You, Lord,” when the Lord behaves exactly like we expect, giving us everything we want and ask for. It is another thing to trust Him by continuing to do what He says and pray to Him when He is not responding the way we want and when it seems like it is doing no good at all. May I suggest we can’t be sure we trust God until that trust has been put to the test in the crucible of shocking circumstances, circumstances in which God isn’t behaving exactly like we expected, in which He isn’t delivering as quickly as we had hoped. In fact, I also suggest we can’t be sure we truly trust God until we continue doing what He says even in the moments when it looks like it is not working at all. You know, moments like when you are hanging on a cross, dying, feeling forsaken, and then say, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit.” I’m not trying to make us fear we don’t have enough faith. I am simply trying to encourage us to hang on to our faith in those moments when we are ready to give up. Because if we don’t, I’m not so sure what we have is actually faith and trust.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Riding the Pendulum

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Whether this psalm and the last are placed next to each other for this purpose or not, there is a striking contrast between the two. In Psalm 30:6, David wrote, “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.'” in Psalm 31:22, he writes, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.'” In the previous psalm, because of David’s confidence, pride, and swagger, the Lord hid His face and David was dismayed (though, admittedly, the ultimate outcome of that psalm is David’s deliverance). In this psalm, because of David’s humility, penitence, and prayer, the Lord delivers. This contrast shows what happens in our life. We ride the pendulum. One day, we ride high in confidence. The next, we scrape the bottom in terror. One day, our pride is getting the better of us. The next, our humility draws us closer to God. As all this is going on, this contrast draws out something we learned in Psalm 30 as well. We all want the good times, the mountaintop experiences, but often it is the valleys that teach and grow us the most. It’s hard to thank God for His testing and refining fires, but this gives us reason to count it all joy when we meet various trials. After all, the trials produce steadfastness, steadfastness grows us to maturity, maturity strengthens love, and those who love God receive the crown of life (see James 1:2-4, 12).

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Up From the Grave

Today’s reading is Psalm 30.

Did Yahweh literally bring David’s soul up from Sheol? Had Yahweh literally restored to David life from among those who go down to the pit? Of course not. Just as Peter and Paul could refer to Psalm 16:10 and say, “Well, we can take you to David’s tomb, so he is actually a prophet pointing to someone else,” we can do the same thing here. We could go to David’s tomb today and discover his soul is actually still in Sheol and his life is actually among those who go down to the pit. But there is One whose tomb we haven’t simply lost. Rather, it was emptied. There is One whose life was among those who went down to the pit, but on the third day was restored. There is One for whom the disciples wept through the night, but in the morning came joy. And because of that, our mourning may be turned into dancing, our sackcloth may be replaced with gladness. And we will be able to give thanks forever. Not just for the rest of our earthly lives, but forever. Jesus rose up from the grave, and because He did, we look forward to resurrection ourselves. We look forward to dwelling in the Lord’s house forever, giving thanks to Him forever. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Channeling Jesus

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

A really profound occurrence takes place in John 2:18-22. When asked what sign Jesus would work to demonstrate His authority to cleanse the temple, He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That really confused everyone, but John goes on to explain that after Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles understood what He meant. He wasn’t actually talking about the temple in Jerusalem, but the temple of His own body. What makes this scenario so profound is the realization that the resurrection changed everything. It changed how the apostles heard what Jesus said. It even changed how they read Scripture, including the Psalms. In fact, it should change how we read Scripture. It is true that there are some psalms that we all recognize as Messianic; that is, psalms foretelling what the Messiah would be like. There are psalms that are not as clearly foretelling, but something doesn’t seem to quite fit until the Messiah comes on the scene and fulfills the psalm literally. But there are other psalms that aren’t really foretelling anything, but once we know Jesus’s resurrection and listen to them through that filter, we hear Jesus all over them. That is Psalm 27. That is especially true when we get to “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” When David wrote this about himself, no doubt, he was referring to the fact that God was going to grant his request. He wasn’t going to die in battle. He was going to get to Jerusalem and see the tent of the Lord again. Jesus, who was forsaken by everyone, who went to the cross at the hands of soldiers and false accusers, feared nothing. He entrusted His soul to His Father. He went to the cross and died. But on Sunday morning, He saw the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living. He waited through the cross. He waited through the grave. He waited until the third day. And then He arose the conquering hero over sin, Satan, death, and the grave. And if this is how Yahweh delivers His one and only Son, how much more should we expect the same? David had confidence God would deliver him because of how God had worked with Moses and Joshua. We can have confidence because of how God delivered our King Jesus. No matter how dark it gets in your life, no matter how the enemy tries to blot out the sun, God is our light, He is our salvation, He is our stronghold. Hang on to Him. He will always come through. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 28.

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Channeling Joshua

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

David begins with a declaration that Yahweh is his light, salvation, and stronghold. Because that is the case, he refuses to be afraid. But then he explains he is surrounded by armies and violent, false accusers. The psalm is a mix of confidence and at least a little fear that God is forsaking him. That is, whatever he is dealing with has gone on longer than he would expect if God was with him in this dark valley. But the psalm ends with “Wait for the Lord!” In other words, it ends with a declaration that David isn’t going to abandon his Shepherd just because the Shepherd isn’t acting on his time table. He will wait for Yahweh to act on His own timetable. And in the middle of that declaration, he does an interesting thing, he says something familiar, though in the ESV it is worded slightly differently than usual. I’ll word it the way we are used to and see if you catch it. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous; wait for the Lord!” Did you get it? (Maybe the title of this post gave it away.) David is channeling Joshua. Joshua was told to be strong and courageous over and over again (Deuteronomy 31:, 7, 23; Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18). And so it is no surprise that in Joshua 10:25, he turns around and tells Israel to be strong and courageous. David knew God would defeat His enemies because that is what God has done over and over and over again with the enemies of His people. And He will defeat our enemies. No, that doesn’t mean God is going to take out the person who got the promotion we were hoping to get at work. But it does mean that those, whether earthly or spiritual, who rise up against us trying to pull us out of our Savior’s hands will be defeated in God’s good time. He may not do it when we expect, but wait on Him; He will do it! Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

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David’s #1 Goal

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

David is surrounded by enemies and violent false accusers. He is facing war. An enemy army is encamped around him. What is his #1 goal? Defeating the enemy? Saving his skin? Prolonging his life? Proving his own manliness, strength, and military might? Returning to kick back in the palace and be served by the masses? Nope! Being in the house of the Lord. Gazing on the beauty of the Lord. Seeing the face of the Lord. Immerse yourself in this picture. The commanding king is on the battlefield and what most upsets him about having to face this battle is not really his own personal danger. The most upsetting part for David is this battle keeps him away from the Lord’s house. Remember Psalm 23:6? David wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. But today, an enemy army stands between him and that house. Peter tells us we can cast all our anxieties upon the Lord because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7). My prayer is that I will grow to the point where I understand that the real issue with every other anxiety, every other attack, every other struggle is that they are distracting me from the beauty of the Lord and drawing me out of the house of the Lord. I pray I will grow to the point that my #1 concern, my #1 goal is to be in the Lord’s house, gazing upon His beauty and favor, glorying in the sight of His face.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 27.

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The Crucified Savior

Today’s reading is Psalm 22.

We find ourselves in the exact same position with Psalm 22 as with so many others. David is making extraordinary claims for himself and for his own life. Yet, as we apply them to David’s life, we have to see them as figurative, poetic, hyperbole. There was never a point in David’s life in which everyone mocked him or wagged their heads at him. There was never a point in David’s life in which he was so personally close to death he was dehydrated, emaciated, dealing with heart failure. At least, not one we can find in the record. At the same time, there was no victory David experienced that caused the ends of the earth to worship the Lord. And yet there is One about whom this psalm can be taken much more literally. I don’t say completely literally because the bulls, lions, and dogs are all still figures of speech even in the life of Jesus. And in case we might miss it, the New Testament authors make sure we see it. Psalm 22 is one of the most quoted psalms (if not the most quoted) in the New Testament in reference to Jesus. Jesus Himself quotes it on the cross in Matthew 27:46. But let’s understand how truly profound Psalm 22 is as a prophecy of Jesus. It is not merely the record of one saying, “Some day, in the future, there will be a guy who goes through this.” This is not Jesus merely fulfilling a foretelling of events. This is Jesus fulfilling the very life of David. It wasn’t merely David’s words that pointed to Jesus, David’s life pointed to Jesus. In fact, notice that David demonstrates, in his faith in Psalm 22:3-5, that he was walking in the footsteps of the fathers, the entire nation of Israel. Jesus is not merely fulfilling a prophecy, He is fulfilling the very history of Israel. He is on that cross dying the death that Israel, that in fact the whole world, deserved. The difference is whenever Israel would cry out a statement like Psalm 22:1, it was because of their own sins. When Jesus cried it out, it was because of ours. And because He did, we can experience vs. 21: “You have answered me!” Praise the Lord!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 22.

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Forsaken!

Today’s reading is Psalm 22.

When David wrote this, it wasn’t because he had a vision of how someone else was going to feel centuries later. It was because it was how he felt. Yes, later in the week, we’ll see Jesus in this psalm. But if we jump too quickly to the prophetic nature of this psalm, we will miss the worship nature of this psalm. The suffering in this psalm is extreme. It is impossible to find a record of a time in David’s life that literally matches. To me it fits Joseph in prison or even Daniel in the lion’s den better than any of the stories of David. However, it is clearly not beyond the sweet psalmist of Israel to express his mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish in such intense physical terms to drive home his point. Instead of being encircled by God, he is surrounded by mockers and scorners, by strong bulls, wild lions, and rabid dogs. Like vultures they circle, awaiting his death. And he is on the brink. He is dehydrated and emaciated. His heart can barely pump. His lungs are full of dust. His strength is gone. And David has no idea why God is doing nothing. BUT!!!! But notice what David is still doing. He is still crying out. He is still praying. He knows God’s nature is not defined by what is happening in the present moment. He hasn’t become a different God in this moment than He was in the past when the fathers cried out to Him and He rescued. He is the same God who provided for him as an infant by giving him a mother to nurse him. Of course, it is remembering all of this that makes it even harder to understand the way God is behaving at the moment. But David never entertains the notion that somehow God isn’t there or doesn’t care. He’s confused, even scared. But his faith is an amazing contrast to his declaration of feeling forsaken. What faith!!! Is it one we can mirror? When we feel God is not listening, will we still worship? That is faith.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 22.

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We Will Sing and Praise Your Power

Today’s reading is Psalm 21.

Psalm 21 begins and ends with the strength of the Lord. It begins with the king exulting in the Lord’s strength. It ends with the people of the king exalting the Lord and His strength in song and praise. The Lord’s response to our praying deserves, in fact demands, a response from us in praise. We asked Him for victory and He gave it. He deserves praise. The Lord’s supremacy over the powers that assail us deserves, in fact demands, a response in praise. And we, more than any of the ancient Israelites who prayed Psalm 20 and witnessed the victory of Psalm 21, have reason to praise. How can we not when the victory of our King was the victory over sin and the grave? C. Hassell Bullock in his comments on this psalm reminds of a hymn written by Robert Lowry: “How Can I Keep from Singing?”

My life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the clear, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die? I know my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am his! How can I keep from singing?

Robert Lowry
“How Can I Keep from Singing?”
Quoted (though rearranged) from C. Hassell Bullock, Teach the Text Commentaries, Psalms vol 1, p 155

Isn’t the psalmist really saying exactly that? We see Your power, Your response, Your victory, Lord; how can we keep from singing?

Next week’s reading is Psalm 22.

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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