Psalm 117 ~ Extol Him All You People

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord. Psalm 117

Extol: glorify, magnify, exalt, bless, make much of, celebrate, emblazon, sound or resound the praise of, ring one’s praises, sing the praises of, trumpet, praise to the skies, porter aux nues, doxologize, praise God from whom all blesing flow…does your list end here?

Grace and peace to you …

image Eric Slatkin

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Three

imageThe focus of Lent is often on the deprivation that Christians volunteer to engage. The question “what are you giving up for Lent?” is often an introductory comment heard. I believe when we answer this question and go no further, we diminish the depth of this season of the Church year. To see the days as simply a fast from something runs dangerously close to self glory in unsophisticated eyes, even though this is not our purpose in the response. A better response perhaps is to say simply, “I am relieving myself of those things that fall between God and me.” Today we turn to Psalm 126 for a brief reminder of why we rid ourselves of worldly burdens.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (v3)

That single verse sums up our life in Christ. Even if the only(!) thing He ever did for us was to open the avenue for a restored relationship with Him, we would know unending joy. Earthly blessings and daily sufferings would both vanish in the passing of time as we process the magnitude of what we have been given to us through Calvary. We have been brought back from the wilderness.

When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (vv 1-2)

Let one person know see this joy today so that they too can say, the Lord has done great things for you.

Grace and peace to you.

image rickz

Psalm 65 – Praise Awaits You, O God

imagePraise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.

O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (vv 1-2)

When we reach the 65th psalm, the psalter takes a sudden turn to effusive praise and leaves behind the psalms of lament temporarily. God has been praised by the psalmist over and over without hesitation thus far, despite the threatening clouds that seemed to shadow each entry in the book. Here there is no lament; it is either cured or forgotten in favor of pure praise for the goodness of God toward those who love him.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! (vv 3-4)

Though we should worship God simply because He is who He is, we most often associate our relationship to Him via his remarkable grace toward us sinners. We who were separated from Him by the chasm of our unholiness are given the opportunity to rejoin the community of belief through His grace. Washing us clean, God provides the way for us to move closer and kneel in the courts of praise.

Our response to the grace we are extended is praise for His righteous acts:

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,

who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (vv 5-8)

Our Father is not content to merely forgive us for our transgressions, he installs us in paradise in a lesser, but still overwhelming, expression of His love for us:

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (v 9)

Look around you, find a reason and praise Him today.

 

 

image icemomo

Getting In Shape for Worship

Much of what passes for worship these days has drifted far from its biblical definition. In the minds of many, worship is the praise-singing portion of a church service and nothing more. It gets compartmentalized into a small part of life and becomes a checklist item… read my bible (check!), said grace at dinner (check!), sang a praise chorus at church (check!). This segmentation extends to the whole of our faith. Rather than faith permeating our life and all things passing through that filter, Christianity becomes simply a part of who we are.

image

Modern worship has become I shaped. It is still pointed at God but notice how narrow it has become. It is just a portion of our life, perhaps as little as twenty minutes on Sunday morning. We have allowed worship to become associated solely with the praise choruses of the worship. Many of these contribute to our weak worship as they encourage us to express our singular love for the Lord without expressing the magnitude of his being, his creation or his acts. Segmentation also allows for worship to be put aside as the band lays down their instruments. We fail to make it a part of everything in life.

image When we decide to get in shape for worshipping God, the first improvements we see are that our worship life begins to look more like an upside-down T. Our worship is focused on our love for God but maturity helps us to see that it is a lifestyle. Being a Christian defines who we are rather than being one of many attributes. We have been reborn and given the Holy Ghost to dwell within and guide all we do. Worship is reflected in right thought and right action as we take all things captive to the will of God. The Apostle Paul spoke of this in Romans 12:1-2 in which he preaches that our (whole) lives should be an act of worship.

image

We can declare ourselves in shape for worship when we can see the capital I taking root. In addition to expressing worship through all aspects of our life, our worship of God is told through all available channels. We see the musical, prayer, and teaching events of Sunday service as a part of worship in which our hearts and minds are stretched by the glory of all of God’s acts laid out before us. We express awe as the psalmist did and though the seas were not parted for us, we can look to equally momentous changes in our new birth. We are unsatisfied with prom songs for our friend God and we demand depth; we are convinced that All Is Well with our souls despite the crashing waves, that the grace we know truly is amazing. Prayer encompasses the entire body and not just our own wants and desires. The words of the pastor build muscle and strengthen us in areas that we may not have even seen the weakness.

We cannot afford to continue allowing worship to atrophy, even if our intentions in restraining it seem to be good (such as seeker sensitivity.) Whether we face joy or cataclysm, our first attitude should be that of a worshipper. Remember, others are watching.

Psalm 43 – Send Forth Your Light and Truth

image Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. (vv 3-4)

The Psalmist groans in the face of continued persecution, much as he did in psalm 42. [N.B. Psalm 42 and 43 form a single prayer unit and should be read together.] He begs to be restored into an audience with Yahweh who he will praise. The hope that colors this brief prayer applies now as it did then; praise does not require peace. Praising God requires the long view. We must look beyond our immediate circumstances, whether morass or exultation, and know that in the eternal blueprint that God has for the world he works all things for good.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (v 5)

 

Image Walt Jabsco

Psalm 42 Have Mercy On Me

image The first collection of prayer poetry in the Psalter closes with David’s repeated plea for healing from a serious illness. He does not wait until the healing is complete before effusively praising Yahweh.

But you, O Lord, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them.

I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me.

In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.

Amen and Amen. (vv 10-13)

David has walked over this ground many times, penning a prayer for relief from whatever ailment was causing his distress. The preceding handful of psalms were similar pleas for mercy while acknowledging that his illness was directly related to his sin. Stepping outside of himself, he looks in through the eyes of those who are enjoying his travail.

I said, “O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die and his name perish?” (vv 4-5)

To whom are we going to give our attention? It is all too easy to allow the feelings and actions of others to influence our relationship with God. Their malice may even convince us that God has given up, that he has turned his eyes away from us. When we are in the midst of our battles, when our pit of despair seems to grow deeper by the day, when we may even feel as though all is lost…we must praise. We must flip to this psalm and raise our voices to the heavens and declare that despite current circumstance, we say “Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.”

Amen and Amen.

 

Image Gio

Psalm 35 Vindicate Me in Your Righteousness

Vindication and Righteousness

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.

Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid.

Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.

Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” (vv 1 – 3)

New Testament Christians (those whose main reading is done in the NT) encounter a violent plea such as this from the psalmist much differently than those who spend equal time in both testaments. The psalmist—and the psalter—calls for violent retribution on a divine scale from Yahweh against those who would persecute him. Again, our modern ears trouble us. Is it right to call down fire and destruction on our enemies in the light of Christ’s instruction to love our enemies and to offer the other cheek to insults?

Perhaps we read the psalm too literally as an imprecatory piece. In the same way that we may use a journal or even our prayer life to ‘vent’ and release our personal frustration at whatever our current situation might be. The cry for justice softens a bit to seek vindication in the verses that follow.

May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.

May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. (vv 4-6)

So maybe Yahweh, you don’t destroy them with the Javelin but just chase them away and shame them for their false accusations. David claims innocence to the charges that his enemies are bringing against him. He has done nothing to deserve the troubles that have come his way and asks that Yahweh resolve this. He promises praise in return,

may ruin overtake them by surprise—may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

…then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.

My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” (vv 8-10)

The danger of schadenfreude leaps to mind. Shall I praise the Lord for the misfortune of others? They have fallen into their own trap after all. This is a psalm to consider carefully. It may not be one of our favorites because it raise such an uncomfortable quandary for us but those moments and hours of discomfort ultimately strengthen our bond with God. Take the psalm to Him in prayer and allow the Spirit to search your heart to discover both the right and wrong reasons that exist there.

Photo by Richard the Lyin’ Hearted

Digg This

Psalm 29 ~ The Lord Thunders Over the Mighty Waters

29

Recite the first two verses of this psalm out loud, the first time in a whisper and the second time in full voice using the full power of your diaphragm.

Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty one, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. (vv 1-2)

This psalm, in its structure and prose, demands to be fully voiced. The call to worship and praise found in these introductory verses practically rings the kind of praise that we feel in our hearts but rarely have the courage to voice. Compare it to the tepid “Good morning, how’s everybody doin’” that serves as the call to worship in so many churches and it leads you to wonder what would happen if someone got up and belted this out.

In fact, continue to read and you’ll find your blood rising and heart beating harder as the volume and power rise in your head.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.

The Lord Thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. (vv 3-4)

Why not also close the service with the closing affirmation:

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (vv 10 – 11)

Amen

Digg This

Psalm 28 The Lord is the Strength of His People

The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for anointed one.

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. (vv 8-9)

Read this psalm backwards. By doing so you will discover a contrasting pattern to our human priorities. The psalmist praises the great glory of God, linking Him to shepherd of Psalm 23 and intercedes on behalf of God’s people similar to the cry in Psalm 25.

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.

My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (vv 6-7)

The Lord is so good to His people, to those who trust Him. We are moved to ask, what have we to fear then? Is there a hint of doubt in the opening verses of this prayer? When we read from the beginning, the pleas of David mirror our own concerns that God might not hear us, that he might have turned away.

To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (vv 1-2)

The plea is subtle but important. As David voices his wish to be heard by God, he does not doubt but rather, praises Him by saying that the absence of His voice alone is like being dragged to the pit. To say that we are nothing without the immediacy of God’s presence and His all encompassing holiness is praise of a better quality than some of the prom songs that we lift up to him on Sundays. Our foremost act of worship is to recognize hell as being His absence. Though there may have a time in our lives when we sought to escape Him, to know His closeness and then discover it gone is the worst imaginable fate.

Digg This

Psalm 16 ~ My Portion and My Cup

How many times do our prayers drift toward our needs or even our desires? We may be enjoying a perfectly satisfactory life where needs can slide towards desires and still feel the need to make the request of the Lord. Or, our circumstances may be different as much of our waking time is spent pursuing the basic requirements of life. Our prayers of request take on a different tone at these moments. In either scenario, the psalmist shows us the proper approach to the throne.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (vv 5-6)

You say, it would be easy to praise the Lord if my life was provisioned as such. I can envision very large boundaries that would remove the daily stress and concern from my life. On the other hand, when circumstances are dire, how am I to lift my voice in praise? We do it in trust. Trust that the portion assigned by the Lord is perfect for His purposes. Trust that the exact amount of security needed in order for us to serve His purposes has been provided. In trust that our labors and struggles in this kingdom will be rewarded in the new heavens and the new earth of eternity.

Trust comes from relationship. Relationship is born in the crucible of prayer.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (vv 7-8)

Perhaps our time in prayer is better spent in learning the depth of our relationship with the Lord. Knowing how deeply we are loved puts our circumstances in perspective.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (v 11)