Archive for June, 2006

We Are His Sheep – Psalms 23

Would you want to be a sheep? I guess it depends upon who your Shepherd is…

When you stop and think about it, the analogy of sheep and shepherd is powerful. The Lord uses this analogy to describe people who came to believe in Him throughout the Bible. What does a shepherd’s purpose? A shepherd provides for, protects and guides his sheep.

The truth is, sheep are not all that bright. They are defenseless and a little dense, so they need to be completely cared for. You can’t just put a bunch of sheep out in the field and expect them to survive for very long. A favorite of many predatory carnivores, sheep must have protection. They tend to wander off without much thought of where they are or where they’re going or how to get back.

Look at verse 2:

2 “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.”

Sheep depend on the shepherd to lead them to where they can eat and drink. They need the shepherd to survive.

Look at the end of verse 4:

4 “Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

The shepherd rod was used to protect the sheep from bears or lions or even thieves. The rod was never used on the sheep, it was used on those who intended to harm his sheep. The staff was long and it had a hook on one end. This was used to guide the sheep in the way they should go. If one got out of line, the shepherd used the hook to pull them back in. If a sheep fell off a cliff, the shepherd could pull them back up with the staff.

So, when you think about how sheep need a shepherd to survive, think also about how we need the Lord to survive. We need Him to lead and guide us, lest we go astray on our own. We need Him to rescue us from our mistakes. We need Him to protect us from those who wish us harm.

I don’t mind being God’s sheep. We are His sheep and the people of His pasture. We have all we need. Our cups overflow with blessings and we will live in the house of the Lord forever.

It doesn’t get much better than that…

peace,
e

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Prophetic Psalm? – Psalms 22

I find myself in the same recent dilemma this morning. I want to spend more time understanding this passage. I am intrigued by David’s words and I want to know more – but I have to get to work. I slept to the last possible moment because I am so tired. My days are filled with activity from early morning until I can no longer hold my eyes open. But I will medidate on this Psalm today – there seems to be much more here than meets the eye…

As I read today’s Psalm, several key phrases stuck out to me:

  • My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?
  • I am scorned and despised by all!
  • “Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him! If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him!”
  • They have pierced my hands and feet.
  • My enemies stare at me and gloat.
  • They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments.
  • I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
  • The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him. People from every nation will bow down before him.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was reading the words of Jesus, not David. I was amazed how many phrases used in this Psalm described Jesus and what He went through. Could this be some kind of prophetic Psalm? Could the Holy Spirit have been inspiring these words in David in order to prophesy Jesus agony and suffering and His triumph?

The encouragement for us today is to expect miracles. David probably had no idea these words were prophetic, but he was crying out to God and worshiping Him. As a result of his worship, the Holy Spirit gave David miraculous insight. As we worship Him and cry out to Him, He will hear us and He will answer us in miraculous ways – in ways we may not even know about at first. Trust Him – He is faithful.

peace,
e

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Long Live the King! – Psalms 21

As I read these Psalms of David, I try to find out or imagine what might be going on at the time they were written. The story of David is still one of my favorite passages in the Bible. He went through so much but kept his eyes on the Lord. In spite of his problems, David had a great relationship with God – to the point God called him “a man after my own heart.”

Today, I notice how David wrote this Psalm in the first person – as if perhaps to be sung as a song by his people. I try to imagine the people in that day who had the priviledge of having David as their king. There must have been certain protocols and traditions and I’m sure lots of singing, since David was a musician himself. I remember seeing in medeival movies (even the recent “Lord of the Rings”) how the people would often shout, “Long live the king!” How interesting that David provides songs for them to sing to God about himself.

1 How the king rejoices in your strength, O LORD! He shouts with joy because of your victory. 2 For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have held back nothing that he requested. 3 You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. 4 He asked you to preserve his life, and you have granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever. 5 Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. 6 You have endowed him with eternal blessings. You have given him the joy of being in your presence.

It got me thinking about my own “kingdom.” As a father, I am the prophet, priest & king of my family. What better way to proclaim your faith and your love for God than in a song – how much more to provide your own people a song to sing to God about your own thanksgiving and praise.

I want my kids to know of my faith and my thanksgiving to God. We should make up more songs and sing them to God together…

What ways do you and your family praise God together?

peace,
e

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Some Trust in Chariots – Psalms 20

This Psalm seems to have an interesting twist. In David’s previous Psalms, it is clear that he is crying out to God for help or praising God directly for protecting him. We can easily imagine him penning these prayers and praises to God as we remember all that he went through from our reading of I & II Samuel.

But, this Psalm seems to be turned around. As I read it, I first thought that David is praying for his people. Look at the NLT version of the first 4 verses:

1 In times of trouble, may the LORD respond to your cry. May the God of Israel keep you safe from all harm. 2 May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. 3 May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings. 4 May he grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans.

Certainly a good model for us to review. It is good to pray for our brothers. At first, I thought this would be a great thing to mention to our men’s group – an example to pray for each other. And it still is. But, upon further meditation, I started thinking that this prayer might be a prayer that David is presenting for his people to pray for him. Look at verses 5 & 6:

5 May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers. 6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed king. He will answer him from his holy heaven and rescue him by his great power.

Why not? Paul and Peter were constantly asking people to pray for them. I could see how David might put out a prayer for the people to pray for their king. If you read this through as a person praying for David, it makes much more sense. If you read it as David praying for his people, verses 5 and 6 make less sense. I’m no Bible scholar so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

Of course, verse 7 is famous and a great declaration of trust in God (NKJV):

7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Whom do you trust today?

Increase our trust in You today, Lord!

peace,
e

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Declare His Glory! – Psalm 19

In the first part of this Psalm, David calls attention to the fact that all of God’s creation is doing what it was created to do:

1 The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. 2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. 3 They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; 4 yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world.

What was God’s creation created to do? Declare the greatness of God! All is working perfectly as God has intended – the trees, the heavens, the atmosphere, the animals, fish, fowl, insects, geology, etc.

To man, however, He gave free will. Because He wanted someone to love and not just love Him back because He made them do so. As a result, we have some who are not declaring His greatness. Some are caught in destructive sins, some do not recognize Him as God, and some even make a point to tear down all things that have to do with God. One day, however, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! As for me, I want to declare His greatness every moment I live – just as David did.

And, because of His desire for a relationship with us, God gave us laws. These laws were not meant to condem us, but to point out how much we need Him – because we simply cannot live up to them all. They show us where we fail to be holy. I like what David says about God’s laws:

9 The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to those who hear them; there is great reward for those who obey them.

Then, I love David’s prayer in verses 12 – 14:

12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep me from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. 14 May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Yes, Lord! May what I say and think today be pleasing to You!

peace,
e

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Guard me, Hide me, Protect me – Psalms 17

You can feel the emotion behind David’s plea. David is crying out to God for justice. Most likely David is referencing Saul, how he hunts David down like an animal to kill him.

Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David cries out to God for help; for refuge. There are several things that stand out in David’s prayer to me this morning:

1) “Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from an honest heart.” Are we honest when we talk to God? It’s not like He already knows our heart anyway. I believe that is one of the keys to David’s relationship with God – he was honest with Him. Not afraid to complain or cry out, David never seems to hold back or mince words when talking to God. I could learn from this. As I mentioned before, it shows the level of their inimate relationship. It’s what God wants with each of us.

2) “…for I am determined not to sin in what I say.” David considers his words carefully as He speaks to God. Clearly he is not without sin completely, none of us can be, but he makes careful consideration for what he is saying; again with the honesty.

3) “But because I have done what is right, I will see you.” I believe because of their intimate relationship, David knows who he is in God. He knows where he stands with Him. If you read David’s story in I and II Samuel, one thing that stand out clearly is that David prays to God about everything: “Should I go here, Lord?” “Should I eat this, Lord?” “Should I wear this?” Every little decision was taken to God (especially early in David’s life) – as if He was standing right there with David.

4) “Guard me as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. Protect me from wicked people who attack me, from murderous enemies who surround me.” Guard me. Hide me. Protect me. David recognizes God for who He is, our protector and defender. David is not afraid to cry out to God for refuge, even though he is considered a great warrior and leader. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.

5) “When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face to face.” This says it all. David, even in the midst of such vile persecution, is fixed on God and not his own dismal circumstances. He declares that God is all he needs to be satisfied – even for just a glipse of God’s glory.

Seek Him today! He is all you need.

peace,
e

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Always With Me – Psalms 16

Psalms 16
From Mathew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible:
This psalm is entitled Michtam, which some translate a golden psalm, a very precious one, more to be valued by us than gold, yea, than much fine gold, because it speaks so plainly of Christ and his resurrection, who is the true treasure hidden in the field of the Old Testament.

I love this chapter! I read this back to God as a prayer this morning and I experienced God in a whole new way. There is so much for me in these 11 short verses:

1 Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.8 I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 9 No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in safety.

There is nothing more I can add!

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word.

peace,
e

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Who May Worship? – Psalms 15

Psalms 15
David poses two questions in this short, but captivating Psalm:

 

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

David seems to be asking God who will go to heaven. Not who specifically, but what kind of person.

I’m reminded of another place in Scripture where this same question was asked. Do you remember the story of the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19?

 

16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good things must I do to have eternal life?” 17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “Only God is good. But to answer your question, you can receive eternal life if you keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” 21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went sadly away because he had many possessions. This wealthy young man had too much to give up.

Don’t miss the point of Jesus’ story – He is not saying that by obeying the commandments you will get into heaven. Some people spend their lives doing good, trying to earn heaven, but it can’t be done. We will never live up to that. Jesus’ point is summed up in his last three words to the young man: “Come, follow me.” That’s the kind of person who David is asking about: one who is willing to follow Jesus Christ. By doing so, it involves following His commandments and sacrificing all – your life, your possessions, your will. But – read on in Matthew 19 for the rewards:

 

27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?” 28 And Jesus replied, “I assure you that when I, the Son of Man, sit upon my glorious throne in the Kingdom, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life. 30 But many who seem to be important now will be the least important then, and those who are considered least here will be the greatest then.

Yes! There are rewards and paybacks, Jesus makes that very clear – and Peter is not rebuked for asking “What will we get out of it?”

Lord, it’s hard for me to get this right in my mind. I want to serve You, not for the rewards, but because I love You and want to bring glory to You. Yet, my mind is captured by Your words of encouragement. I’ll follow You, Lord – and one day be with You.

 

peace,
e

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Intimacy with God – Psalms 13 & 14

Psalms 14
I am so blessed to have a few close friends that I can be myself to. They have known me long enough to know my heart. They know the background behind what I say and how I say things. I don’t have to carefully select my words, I can just say what I’m thinking. I know that if I cross a line, they will lovingly let me know. But, because of my relationship with them, I am free to be myself.

In this chapter, I’m a bit uncomfortable when I read David’s tone in this Psalm. He is really telling God how he feels. Once again, I’m reassured that it’s okay because of David’s intimate relationship with Him. The simple fact that I feel uncomfortable is a sign that I need to continue building intimacy with my heavenly father.

The other thing I notice is how David’s complaining quickly turns to praise and rejoicing. In only six short verses David goes from crying out to God, complaining that He’s forgotten him, to remembering all the good things God has done.

There is much to learn in these short verses in Psalms 13. The encouragement today is to continue to seek Him and to become more and more intimate with Him, and to always remember the good things He has already done. I will continue to nurture my relationships with my God-given friends as well as I need them to encourage me during the hard times and kick my hind-end when I stray.

Psalms 14
In this Psalm, there is more encouragement to grow in our relationship with Christ. David writes that God is looking about on the earth for one with understanding:

2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks for God.

How do we grow? How do we gain that understanding? Well, if you’re reading this, you’re doing it! God says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Reading the Scriptures is the best way to feed our spirits. His word grows us and washes us and teaches us as we read it. It’s living water to our spirits.

Lord, thank You again for Your Word. Please speak to me today and show me how to grow in faith and understanding.

peace,
e

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No Weapon Shall Prevail – Psalms 11 & 12

Psalms 11
Do you remember reading about David? Remember when Saul was out to kill David? What if someone of great power & resources hurled a javelyn at you, trying to kill you – would you run? That’s the advice they gave to David. I’m not sure if he wrote this Psalm during that time, but that’s the story I’m reminded of. This is a great testimony of David’s struggle with his temptation to run and hide instead of trusting God to defend him.

 

4 But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth. 5 The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates everyone who loves violence. 6 He rains down blazing coals on the wicked, punishing them with burning sulfur and scorching winds. 7 For the LORD is righteous, and he loves justice. Those who do what is right will see his face.

God loves justice. We may not see it now, but God knows how we have been wronged. Our responsibility is not to cut and run, nor is it to get even. Our job is simply to trust Him in all circumstances.

I’m reminded of the promise in Isaiah 54:17:

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.”

Kind of takes the pressure off, no?

Psalms 12 also talks of the Lord’s protection:

 

6 The LORD’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. 7 Therefore, LORD, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, 8 even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land.

Live in peace,
e

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