Monthly Archives: April 2017

Psalm 135

1Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD! Praise Him, servants of the LORD,

2Who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God!

3Praise the LORD, for He is good! Sing to His name, for it is pleasant!

4For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His particular treasure.

5For I know that the LORD is great, and above all gods.

6Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all the deeps.

7It is He Who causes the clouds to ascend from end of the earth, He makes lightnings for rain, and brings forth the wind from its storehouses.

8It is He Who destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both man and beast,

9Who in the midst of Egypt sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants,

10Who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings.

11Sihon the king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan.

12He gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance for His people Israel.

13Your name, O LORD, endures forever; Your renown, O LORD, for all generations.

14For the LORD will vindicate His people, and have compassion on His servants.

15The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

16They have mouths but cannot speak; eyes but cannot see.

17They have ears but cannot hear; neither is there breath in their mouths.

18Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

19O house of Israel, bless the LORD! O house of Aaron, bless the LORD!

20O house of Levi, bless the LORD! You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!

21Bless the LORD from Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!

 

This is a cultic song of praise for those people who were devoted to the house of YHWH. It begins and ends with the Hebrew הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ, which is “hallelujah,” or “praise the LORD.” It is a reminder to those devoted to the ministry of YHWH that their task is special, for YHWH’s people are special. They are to praise Him and sing to Him, because He has chosen this people as His particular treasure. He has destroyed all who opposed them, and will ultimately vindicate and have compassion on them. It is a reminder that idolatry is futile, and all who engage in it become futile themselves. Contrasting such idolatry is the recognition that YHWH has blessed His particular people; He is real and endures forever. Therefore, He is worthy of human praise from His treasured people.

 

It cannot be overestimated how frequently the theme of the Psalms is pure praise of the living God. In the midst of woe or happiness, the psalmists all encourage us to engage in a habit of praise and worship of the One Who delivers, heals, protects, and provides. Much of the culture of praise is built around remembrance of what He has already done as a contextual continuity to what He will ultimately do. He has already delivered us from the slavery of sin, as He delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt. He has already destroyed many enemies that held us back—sinful habits and ways—and He will ultimately vindicate us based on the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He has compassion on us. As we look around at the lost around us, we note that their way is futile; it is idolatry. The same breath that we invest in praise of the living God, they expend in praise of themselves or their idols. They look to their politicians, their cultural icons, their musical heroes, their sporting figures, or their chemical substances as their deliverance from the woes of the fallen creation. They become futile, just as their false gods are futile. But we are set apart as a particular people to the Lord God Almighty, and He has not forgotten us. He is worthy of our praise, and we are to give it.

 

It is good to be reminded of what He has already done. This helps to build our faith in what He will yet do. Stand in the “already,” believe in the “not yet.” It is not in His character to let you down; He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Praise Him for Who He was, Who He is, and Who He will yet be. He is the same, and His character doesn’t change. Praise Him in the face of your trouble. Praise Him in the face of your happiness. Praise Him in victory and in defeat. Praise Him, for the investment of your breath in His praise is never wasted.

 

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Psalm 134

A song of ascents.

1Behold: bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD who stand in the house of the LORD by night.

2Lift up your hands to the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.

3My the LORD bless you from Zion—He Who made the heavens and the earth.

 

Another pilgrimage psalm, this one is addressed to those devoted to the house of YHWH. They could be the cultic servants of the tabernacle, or merely those who stand in devotion and worship. The sense of powerful devotion is conveyed by the phrase “by night,” though—these are not merely pew-sitters in YHWH’s house (which wouldn’t have existed then anyhow). These people to whom the psalm is addressed have a keen devotion to the things of YHWH, and psalmist is abjuring them to worship Him. “Lift up your hands to the sanctuary” is an imperative to engage in adoration of YHWH. There is the stated wish that YHWH will bless them, and the implication that He has the unlimited power to do so because of His status as the One Who created the heavens and the earth.

 

The same God Who made the heavens and the earth and all of creation is still worthy of our worship. We are to be those “who stand in the house of the Lord by night.” By this, I mean we are to be the people devoted to the house of God. We are to be the servants who can be counted upon to grow in attention and devotion to the things of God, particularly as they involve His house—which is specifically referenced in this psalm. And we are to give ourselves wholly over to the worship of Almighty God. We are to lift our hands and praise Him and adore Him and glorify Him. We are to live in expectation of His blessing, knowing that this same Omnipotent One is capable of provision, protection and guidance.

 

Can you imagine a deeper devotion to worship? Can you picture yourself being one of the devoted ones on whom the Lord’s people can depend? While we are on our own pilgrimage here, we are to be devoted to the house of God. We are to be in the habit of worship—praising Him at night, during the day, constantly glorifying the God Who made all and is guiding us on this pilgrimage. Let today be a day of worship for you. And may the God Who made the heavens and the earth bless you mightily.

Psalm 133

A song of ascents of David.

1Behold: how good and pleasant is it when brothers dwell in unity!

2Like precious oil on the head, running down the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down the edge of his robes!

3Like the dew of Hermon, falling on Mount Zion, for there the LORD has commanded the blessing: life forever.

 

This psalm is focused on the unity of the YHWH-centered family. It was appropriate for the pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and reminded YHWH’s people that they were specially set apart as His, and that the place of His appointed presence was Mount Zion. There are two similes employed to describe the goodness and pleasantness of this unity. The first hearkens to Aaron’s consecration as a priest, who is symbolic of the priesthood in general. In essence, according to Willem VanGemeren, the “fellowship of God’s people on earth is an expression of the priesthood of all believers (Ex 19.6), promised to Israel and renewed to the church in Christ (1 Pet 2.9-10).” It is a holy thing when YHWH’s people gather in unity. The second simile is that of Mount Hermon, which stood nearly 10,000 feet above sea level and was lush in the summer because of all the precipitation. The unity of YHWH’s people is like the lush growth given by YHWH. There is also the correlation of eternal life with this unity (3).

 

Jesus Christ considered the unity of His people of such great importance that He taught that their religious rituals paled in comparison (Mt 5.23). Paul taught the Ephesians that as Christ reconciled us to God, He also reconciled us to one another. We are to be in unity. We are to dwell in unity. We are to make a habit of being together in unity, for it is in such a gathering that He has promised to be present among us. This means two things: making a priority of gathering, and making a priority of reconciling our differences. Conflict is not evil, but failure to resolve it properly is. We should fix what is broken between us so that we have real unity in the Body.

 

This is our pilgrimage—this life on this side of eternity. Let us dwell in unity together—gathering habitually to be in His presence, fixing what’s wrong in our relationships.

 

 

Psalm 132

A song of ascents.

1Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor, all his hardships.

2How he swore to the LORD, and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,

3“I will not enter my house, or go up to my bed;

4I will not give sleep to my eyelids, or to my eyes slumber,

5Until I find a place for the LORD—a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

6Behold: we heard it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.

7“Let us go to His dwelling place; let us worship at His footstool.”

8Arise, O LORD, from Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength.

9Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and Your saints shout for joy.

10For the sake of Your servant David, do not turn away from the face of Your anointed.

11The LORD swore to David an oath, from which He will not turn back: “Of the fruit of your body I will set on your throne.

12If your sons will keep My commands and testimonies that I will teach them, their sons will sit on your throne forever.”

13For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place:

14“This is my resting place forever; I will dwell here because I have desired it.

15I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.

16Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

17There I will make a horn grow for David; I have prepared a lamp for My anointed.

18HIs enemies I will clothe with shame, but his crown will flourish.”

 

 

In this psalm, the psalmist or a grateful congregation prays the YHWH will remember the special relationship between Him and David, for the sake of his descendants. It is a royal psalm, recounting this special relationship—as well as the special place given in OT theology for Zion as the place of YHWH’s presence. Although YHWH is omnipresent and doesn’t need a literal house on earth in which to dwell, He has promised His people that He would dwell among them. He is a relational God, actively engaged in the care and upkeep of His creation. He has selected a particular people and is their God and will dwell with them on the condition that they will have Him (keep His commands and testimonies). The mention of “The Mighty One of Jacob” goes back to Genesis 49, and denotes a God Who has kept the path of His people for a long time. David’s concern was for the glory of YHWH and the presence of the covenant God, Who had promised to dwell in the midst of His covenant people. The priest of YHWH, in this idyllic situation, are clothed with “righteousness” and “salvation”—these terms are used synonymously. The mention of Ephrathah may be symbolic of a report of David’s journey from Bethlehem to Kiriath-jearim (1 Chr 13). It is evident that YHWH chose Zion as His place; it is His desire. The grateful congregation, in an act of worship, reminds Him of this and His promise to place David’s offspring on the throne forever. This, of course, is ultimately realized in the eschaton—when the Messiah sits on the throne of Jerusalem.

 

When we worship God, we do a few things. First, we adore Him for Who He is. He is the omnipotent, omnipresent One Who has kept us and guided us this far. Second, we recount His words to us, and how they have comforted and guided us. He doesn’t “need” reminding, but when we recount those words, we serve the same purpose as the grateful congregation in this psalm—we are engaged actively in a conversation with the living God in which we take Him at His word. He has promised that He would be relational to us—He will dwell in our hearts and be present in our gathering. He has promised to lead us and guide us and provide for us and comfort us. We believe Him when He said this, and in the act of worship we acknowledge this.

 

Worship is much more than making us feel good. It is SO much more than singing a set number of songs and helping us experience something powerful in a magical moment at the altar. Worship is where we take God at His word. We recount His word and remind Him and ourselves of what He said. We believe Him. We trust Him. And we say it out loud (v. 9, 16). We may do this individually, as you are doing right now in reading this devotional, or we may do this corporately. We are expected to do both. Speak to the living God today. Remind yourself in your own prayers of His faithfulness and His promises. Take Him at His word today. Believe and trust Him. It is the ultimate act of worship.

 

 

 

Psalm 131

A song of ascents; of David.

1O LORD, my heart is not haughty, and my eyes are not lofty. I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things too difficult for me;

2but I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother—like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3O Israel: hope in the LORD, from now until forever.

 

This short psalm of David emphasizes the connection between pride and anxiety, and between humility and peace. The speaker claims in the first verse that his heart isn’t haughty (גָבַ֣הּ) and his eyes aren’t lofty (רָמ֣וּ). Such haughtiness and loftiness would be representative of someone who thought too highly of himself. It would be someone who took upon himself the burdens of great matters of things too miraculous. He explicitly claims to be beneath such a station. Many English translations will render פלא in verse 1 “things too difficult,” but it also carries the connotation of “miraculous,” so it would also be appropriate to read this verse “things too miraculous for me.” Instead, the speaker says that he has taken the only action truly available to him: he has calmed and quieted his own soul, like a small child might be calm around his mother. He closes the psalm by reminding his people that they, too, should put their hope in YHWH.

 

Trusting in God means letting go of anxiety. It means not having stress. To stress and be anxious is to tell God that you are in charge of your destiny; it is to ignore the One Who orders your steps. It is, truly, to be prideful and haughty. When your thoughts are on things that are way above your pay grade—like the miraculous—then you are walking in pride rather than humility. God has already promised that He looks after His people now and forevermore. In light of that historical fact, what is there left about which to stress?

 

Calm and quieten your soul today. Someone greater than you is in charge of your destiny.

Psalm 130

A song of ascents.

1Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD!

2O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the sound of my supplications!

3If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

4For with You is forgiveness, that You may be feared.

5I wait for the LORD; my soul waits, and in His word I hope.

6My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning!

7O Israel, wait for the LORD! For with the LORD is loyal love, with Him is abundant redemption.

8And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

 

The psalmist here cries out to YHWH from “the depths” (1), and in this context it appears to be the context of the depths of sin. The rest of the psalm is about YHWH’s forgiving character, so it is possible that the depths of the psalmist’s travail or sorrows is concerned with sin. He begs of YHWH to hear his supplications (תַּחֲנוּנָֽי ,2), or humble entreaties. He notes that everyone has sinned (3), and thus forms a line of continuity between Old and New Testaments in the area of the total depravity of humans. The psalmist ties YHWH’s forgiveness with reverence for Him; YHWH forgives in order that those He loves will come into relationship with Him. The only action that the psalmist can take in his travail is waiting; it is no action at all, but a passive waiting for the forgiveness and blessing of YHWH. His waiting is characterized, even, as the constant and vigilant watch that a watchman keeps over the city. The last two verses of the psalm show the speaker turning outward; he already trusts in YHWH, and now urges Israel to do so, as well. After all, YHWH redeems from all iniquities.

 

Not all travail and sorrow is from without. Implicit to the human condition is the reality that we are fallen and broken. We sin because we are sinners. We simply cannot help it. And it is abundantly human to become mired in an habitual sin, as well—to more or less dwell in the depths, so to speak. When we cry out to God from those depths, He is faithful and just to hear us (1 Jn 1.9). And He doesn’t only hear; He forgives. It has always been in His character to forgive and redeem and transform. He hasn’t changed; He still does so. Moreover, he who has been forgiven much loves much. God’s redemption breeds reverence for Him in relationship. And so we cry out to Him, and we wait for His blessing. We turn our attention to urging others to cry out to Him, as well.

 

Where are your depths? Cry out to God from them. He is faithful and just to forgive you and change you. Wait for His blessing while you urge your neighbors to also receive His loyalty. All you can ever do is to cry out and wait.

 

Psalm 128

A song of ascents.

1Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.

2You will eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you will be blessed, and it will be well with you.

3Your wife will be as a fruitful vine in your house, and your sons will be as olive shoots around your table.

4Behold: thus will the man be blessed who fears the LORD!

5The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

6May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

 

Widely regarded as a companion piece to the previous psalm, this one is also a “wisdom” psalm. It has a beatitudinal form and continues the theme that provision is the unique portion of YHWH. It was likely recited at the beginning of a religious festival in Jerusalem, and is likely post-exilic. The psalmist begins the poem by noting that the man who fears YHWH is blessed. To “fear” YHWH is to have some grasp of the transcendence of Him; to have a deep and abiding reverence for Him. The ancient Jew did not see YHWH as his Santa Claus; he saw Him as a great, powerful, and often frighteningly awesome Perfect One. To have this sort of reverence of the living God was the proper path of the righteous. Note that, in the same verse, the psalmist equates such proper reverence with the habitual discipline of walking in His ways. The psalmist goes on to demonstrate a high degree of specificity regarding the blessings of YHWH: He gives the fruit of one’s labor, for example. Willem VanGemeren says, “in godly living the judgment of God on man (Gen 3.17-19) is alleviated in that labor is truly blessed by God.” These blessings of YHWH include the provision of food, sons, long life and general prosperity. YHWH was concerned with the survival of the ancient culture, and was responsible for providing for His people. Note also, in the second half of the psalm, how the godly person was concerned not just with himself, but with the well-being of Jerusalem. Verse 5 shows that a godly person was concerned not just with himself, but with the well-being of Jerusalem. This is a way of expressing concern for and solidarity with the worship of YHWH.

 

One unfortunate aspect of the Word-Faith theology that sprung up in the 19th and 20th centuries and infected evangelicalism is that it caused people to think that the power to have financial blessing was within themselves. In fact, the divine power to specifically alter reality lay within each man, according to the teachings of this theology (famously promulgated by Kenneth Hagin). You have only to speak financial “blessings” to yourself, and you will have the fat stacks that you want. This anthropocentric view of theology deifies man, of course, and dethrones God. It is a false teaching that often does not recognize that the having of fat stacks is not always a blessing from God—but a curse from the enemy. Still, we must not let the pendulum swing too far the other way, either: here is a biblical understanding that all prosperity comes from the hand of the living God. To the person who makes a continual habit of walking in the reverence of God in relational discipline, God provides. And what He’s providing is actual material blessing. So how do we reconcile this?

 

First, we must remember that we should fear God. We SHOULD walk in His ways out of reverence for the Mighty One. Second, we should double-check our understanding of the word “prosperity:” truthfully, it simply means, in this context, “having what you need when you need it.” To the extent that you have anything, God provided it, regardless of how hard you think you worked for it (Psalm 127). To the ancient Jew, having sons around a table and a large harvest meant that he was set. To us in modern society, we understand that God is the ultimate Provider of our income. This relieves the stress that the self-truster is normally feeding. Why be anxious when you know that your God provides for you? To the person committed to this type of habitual, disciplined relationship with God, one’s labor is not some dark chore that must be accomplished each day—but is a joyous time of living out one’s destiny unto God. We don’t work for money; we work for God. He provides the money we need. Finally, we must also note that the godly person is highly invested in the worship of God. As the ancient Jew cared about the proper worship of YHWH in Jerusalem, so the Christian should care about how God is being worshiped in the community of faith. Is it being done properly? Is the worship of the Lord being taken seriously? The Christian can throw himself into the work of worship in the local church and help see that the reverence for the Mighty One is still being passed on to the next generation of Christian.

 

So do you fear the Lord? Or are you worried about money? Because the two simply won’t coincide over time. Are you the provider for you and your family, or is God? When you trust that God provides for you and you focus on “walking in His ways,” He prospers you. Let your focus today be on those ways of God, as well as what you can do to aid in the proper worship of Him on Sunday.