Psalm 99–Seven


O Lord our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds. (Ps 99:8)

As the joy and awe of Easter remains fresh in our hearts, we do well to reflect on the reality of God’s demand for holiness. Psalm 99 is linked to 97 as an expression of the benefits of the Lord’s reign over His people. These benefits are not the product of a one-sided covenant however. As mercy is extended to us, we are commanded to pull our boots from the mire that has held us captive and ascend to higher ground. Our core calling is to make holiness the objective of our efforts.

The psalmist also expresses the parallel expressions of God’s reign, mercy and correction. Grace is not license, as some mistakenly interpret it. He corrects those he loves in order to reorient their path. To be abandoned to sin is to be without hope.

Grace and peace to you.

image sarah and mike

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Thirty One

image We plead with God for mercy and security, ratcheting up the intensity when we feel that we might be treading on especially dangerous ground. When the voices were raised to free Barabbas, there is no doubt for whom we would have been calling. Like the psalmist in Psalm 140, we see ourselves clearly on one side:

Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence,

who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. (vv 1-2)

Does the mirror tell a different story? The Cross offers salvation but it also acts like a mirror, requiring us to look deeply and to realize that we are the people of evil, the people who caused the Lord to be crucified. The observation of Lent is intended to focus our hearts on not only the glory of the resurrection but on the brokenness that lies within that made the Cross necessary. Perhaps our plea should be “Lord, rescue us from ourselves.”

Grace and peace to you.

image by Mance

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Twenty Nine

imageIn one week we will be in the first days of Passion week. It will a time of mixed emotions; the joy of Easter is tempered and sometimes shadowed by the horror of the extraordinary cost of the Cross. The one innocent man to have walked the face of the earth must be sacrificed that we might live. Jesus the divine reveals God to us in human form and yet, we still struggle to grasp the necessity of the cross. We work to make the juxtaposition of mercy and sacrifice understood by our hearts but lack the words.

 The psalmist knows this duality well, speaking in Psalm 5,

You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;

In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. (vv 6-7)

How rarely we see ourselves as those who speak falsehood or practice deceit and yet, like Nathan did for David, the Spirit reminds us that we are that man. We are the reason for the Cross, the reason that such an enormous cost must be paid. We continue forward toward Calvary in His mercy alone.

Grace and peace to you

image Leonard Matthews

Psalm 51 Create In Me a Pure Heart

David and BathshebaYou do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (vv 16 – 17)

This truth has very nearly become obsolete in the modern church. We have replaced contrition and brokenness with ministry busyness, our ‘offerings’ and church attendance. Sin has become rule-breaking rather than a personal affront; it has become external instead of internal. Repentance has become little more than ‘I’m sorry…’.

Psalm 51 is traditionally seen as being composed by David after his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) and then being confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12). We know how the single transgression of Bathsheba leads to further abhorrent behavior on the part of the King and we know all too well the horrible price that he pays for this string of evils. We don’t know how an exemplar like David can succumb to sin in this fashion but we do know that, if it can happen to someone so close to God it can happen to us as well.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (vv 1-3)

Is God moved to offer pardon through this string of praise? Exclaiming God’s unfailing love, His great compassion, and His mercy, is this proclamation of what must be entirely self evident to Him what will invite Him to offer grace? He must view these prefaces to our admission of guilt much as we do our teenager’s statements that they love and respect our household standards: we ask them why they performed such and such and act if they hold such great respect for our rules? No, we should believe that God is moved when our hearts finally arrive at the core truth of our relationship with Him voiced in verse 4.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (v 4)

We must restore the proper understanding of sin in our lives and in His Church. Sin is properly viewed as being personally enacted against God. We have been lured to see sin as an external act, sort of a third party action of simply breaking a rule in which no one gets harmed like running a few miles over the speed limit. No harm, no foul. This is not how God views sin however. He views each act against His holiness personally, as though we look Him in the eye and while defiling His throne. It becomes even more serious when imagine how God must see our sin in the shadow of the Cross.

Statistically, few people read these posts on the Psalms. More people are interested in the Calvinism-Arminianism argument or my posts on the Hebrews warning passages but my prayer is that more will take the time to at least return to their Bibles and prayerfully consider this Psalm. Doctrine is important and it is valuable time spent considering the facts and searching the scriptures for the truths that underlie the doctrines but this cannot be at the expense of our relationship with God and our personal holiness. Far more important in our lives should be a plea similar to David’s:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (vv 10-12)

Psalm 5 – Lordship and Mercy

To reach out to God in praise is natural to most Christians. On some level, each of us is grateful for the sacrifice and salvation afforded us by the Creator of all and we find joy in proclaiming this gratitude in words of positive affirmation. We understand that praising God for His greatness, telling Him how wonderful He is is much different than the same interaction on a human level. God’s arrogance is not fed by our praise; our proper relationship to Him is. A common feature that we encounter in the psalms are words of praise, directly addressing God by crying out the magnitude of His awesome nature. Another feature that is more jarring to modern ears are the words that emphasize the fundamental nature of God, His absolute holiness.

You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.

The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors. (vv 4 – 6)

How often do your prayers, personal or corporate, remind God of His holiness? The psalmist throws a wide net in these two verses that unsettles. “All who do wrong” are hated, lies bring abhorrence. To meditate on these statements brings nearly all of us to the realization that we can easily find ourselves falling into these wide, wide categories. Does the God we praise also hate us? The answer is found in next verses.

But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. (v7)

Only by the mercy of the One we praise can we approach the holy throne. The psalms contrast the people of mercy, God’s people, and those who choose against Him, His enemies. The contrast is less an ‘us and them’ statement as it is a recognition that we are sustained purely by the mercy that God offers. The line between the loved and unloved is very thin indeed. Praise Him.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (vv 11-12)