Saturday, 22 July 2017

22nd-31st July: Exodus 35-40; Mark 14:53-16:20; Psalm 10

22nd July: Exodus 35:1-36:7
The work of God is shared by many different people with many different gifts. The work is done according to (a) the Lord's command (35:1,4,10; 36:1,5); (b) heartfelt obedience (21; 36:3,5-7); (c) the God-given abilities (24-25; 36:2,4,8). There is something for 'everyone' to do - everyone 'whose heart is stirred whose spirit is moved' (21). Many gifts are needed (31-35). Underlying them all, there is this: 'filled with the Spirit of God' (31). In God's work, there is to be 'full' obedience. When we are fully obedient, there will be 'an overflowing blessing' (Malachi 3:10). 'The people bring much more than enough...'. There 'was sufficient to do all the work, and more' (36:5,7). God is ready to bless. Are we ready to obey? 'If my people...I will...'(2 Chronicles 7:14). 'Always abounding in the work of the Lord' (1 Corinthians 15:58)!
23rd July: Exodus 36:8-38
Moses may have been the leader among God's people, but he could not do all the work by himself! Two of his helpers - Bezalel and Oholiab - are named (1-2). Most - 'all the able men' - remain anonymous (8). Anonymous yet indispensable - Without them, the work of God would have been left undone! To those who are full of their own importance, God says, 'No-one is indispensable. I will find someone else to do My work'. To those who, without fuss, get on with doing His work, God says, 'You are my servants, through whom My work will make good progress'. Building Christ's Church is a long process, involving suffering and disappointments as well as hard-fought victories. In so many ways, the tabernacle pointed to Christ: 'God with us' (Matthew 1:23). May God help us to lead many people to Christ!
24th July: Mark 14:53-15:5
Jesus is 'the Christ, the Son of the Blessed'. He is 'seated at the right hand of Power'. He is 'coming with the clouds of heaven' (61-62). He is 'the King of the Jews': His Kingdom is greater than Herod imagined - it is 'not of this world' (2; John 18:36). Why, then, did He remain silent when false charges were brought against Him? He was bearing our sin - That is why 'He did not open His mouth' (Isaiah 53:4-7; 1 Peter 2:22-24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He knew that He was going to the Cross - for us (John 10:11,15,17-18). Jesus did not deny us: His silence was a godly silence - 'He bore the sin of many', making 'Himself an offering for sin' (Isaiah 53:12,10). Will we deny Him? Our silence is a guilty silence (66-71). May Christ's Word, and His look of love, cause us to weep - and repent (72; Luke 22:61-62; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
25th July: Exodus 37:1-29
Pure gold (2,6,11,16-17,22-24, 26); Jesus Christ is 'pure gold'. He is 'God with us'. His body was broken for us. We feed on Him, the living Bread. His light is shining. He spreads the fragrance of His holiness, and the aroma of His love (Matthew 1:23; Luke 22:19; John 6:35; 8:12; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Read about the ark, the mercy seat, the table, the lampstand, the altar of incense, the holy anointing oil...Think of Christ: He is the 'mercy seat of pure gold' (6). 'The Lord is merciful and gracious...': In mercy, He withholds His judgment from us - He is 'slow to anger'. In grace, He pours His blessing on us - He is 'abounding in steadfast love' (Psalm 103:8). We deserve judgment. We receive salvation. Why? Christ took our judgment that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel - and it is 'pure gold'!
26th July: Exodus 38:1-31
We read, in verse 8, of 'the ministering women...'. See also 35:25-26,29 - 'all women ...all the women... All the men and women...'. Male and female - We need each other. We are 'one in Christ Jesus'. In Him, 'there is neither male nor female' (Galatians 3:28). There should never be a competitive spirit. We are to complement each other. In verse 25, we read of 'the silver from those of the congregation'. God's work does not depend entirely on those who have been called to be leaders. Each of us must play our part. There should be no pulling in different directions. We belong together. We are to work together. Let's pull together, pooling our resources, pulling our weight. Among God's people, there is 'gold' - but it must be 'used for the work' (24). Will you be worth your weight in gold - for God?
27th July: Mark 15 6-41
Jesus did not 'save Himself'. 'He saved others' (31). He sacrificed Himself for our salvation. His was the sacrifice. Ours is the salvation. He 'put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself' (Hebrews 9:26). Barabbas was 'released'. Jesus was 'crucified' (15). This is the Gospel - He took my place, He died for me. He was 'forsaken' by God (34). We are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19,21). We rejoice that Christ ignored the mocking call from 'the chief priests' and 'scribes': 'come down now from the Cross' (32). He paid the full price of our salvation. For us now, there is full salvation. His suffering was complete: 'It is finished' (John 19:30) was not a whimper of defeat. It was the declaration of victory. All that was needed - He has done for us. Now, He invites us to receive salvation: 'Come; for all is now ready' (Luke 14:17).
28th July: Exodus 39:1-43
'As the Lord had commanded...' (1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43): Obedience to God - this is the most important thing. 'And Moses blessed them' (43): Where there is obedience, there is blessing - there's a vital connection between the two. In Jesus, we see perfect obedience: 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work' (John 4:34). Jesus was fully obedient to the Father's will: 'He became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross' (Philippians 2:8). Through His obedience, there is blessing for us: 'by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous' (Romans 5:19). We look beyond the Old Testament priesthood to Christ, the 'High Priest of the good things that have come' - By 'His own blood', He has secured for us 'an eternal redemption' (Hebrews 9:11-12).
29th July: Exodus 40:1-38
Here, we highlight three lessons: (a) The work of God begins with the Word of God: 'The Lord said to Moses...' (1). Before we can do anything for God, we must be taught by God. (b) The work of God must proceed in the way of God: 'Thus did Moses; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did' (16). If we are to accomplish anything for God, we must do God's work in God's way. (c) The work of God must lead to the worship of God: 'The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle' (34). If we are really seeking to work for God, we must seek to give Him the glory for all that is accomplished. Making these our priorities - the Word, way and worship of God - , we will look for 'the cloud and fire', the presence and power of God among us: He will be our Guide 'throughout all our journeys' (38).
30th July: Mark 15:42-16:20
Dead and buried (44-46) - 'The End'? No! There is more. An 'Appendix'? No! A whole new beginning - For Jesus, for us! He is 'the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20,23). The full glory is still to come (1 Corinthians 15:24). He has risen (6). 'At His coming, those who belong to Christ' will be raised - with Him and by Him - to everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:23). This is the glory of the resurrection. It is not simply a thing of the past. It is our glorious future - we 'will be raised imperishable' (1 Corinthians 15:52). There is a Gospel to be preached - the Gospel of salvation (15-16). May God help us to preach the Gospel 'everywhere' - This will involve all of us, not just a few of us! May He give us the joy of seeing Him at work, confirming the message by the signs that attend it (20).
31st July: Psalm 10:1-18
Wickedness seems to be so prevalent. Many 'renounce the Lord', saying 'There is no God' (3-4). It seems that the wicked 'prosper at all times', while the innocent victims of oppression feel that 'God has forgotten' (5-11). When it appears that God 'has hidden His face', when we feel that He has forgotten us, we must remember this: 'The Lord is King for ever and ever' (11,16). Do not judge by appearances. Do not trust your feelings. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes - except God. He is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His faithful love for us. We rejoice in this: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever' (Hebrews 13:5). Whatever circumstances and feelings may suggest, never forget this: 'He loved us from the first of time, He loves us to the last' (Church Hymnary, 293).

Saturday, 15 July 2017

"The words of the Lord are pure words" (Psalm 12).

Reading the words of the Psalmist, “The words of the Lord are pure words” (Psalm 12:6), brought to mind the words of the Apostle Paul – “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). God’s Word is pure. God’s Word is trustworthy. Take these two thoughts together. We think of the perfection of God’s Word. Let’s also give thanks for His perfect love. There is no love like the love of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He loves us with the greatest love of all. There can be nothing more perfect than this – the love of Jesus. Where do we learn of His love? We learn of His love as we read God’s Word – “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”, I am so glad that my Father in heaven tells of His love in the Book He has given. Wonderful things in the Bible I see. This is the greatest that Jesus loves me.” In reading the words of Paul, I note that he describes himself as “the worst.” What a wonderful contrast there is between what Paul was before he was saved by the Lord Jesus and what he became after the Lord had saved him. What a great testimony Paul had – “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:12-14). In responding to the wonderful grace which reached him through Christ, Paul echoes the Psalmist’s emphasis on the purity of the holy God who speaks to us through His holy Word – “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:16-17). As we receive mercy from the Lord, we rejoice in His trustworthiness. Deeply conscious of our sin, which He so graciously forgives, we become deeply conscious of His holiness, and we bow before Him in worship. The greatness of His holiness and the greatness of His mercy – the two belong together. They remind us that we, who have been saved by grace, are called to holiness. In our journey along “the High Way of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8), we have the Word of God as our pure and trustworthy guide.

It's either one or the other - turning towards God or turning away from Him (Psalm 10).

"Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" (1). This question can be turned around. God puts the question to us, “Why, in your times of trouble, do you stand far off?” In this Psalm, God is inviting us to think about the kind of people we are becoming. Are we turning away from God? Or Are we turning towards Him? It’s either one or the other – turning towards God or turning away from Him. * We read about “the wicked man” who “hunts down the weak” (v. 2). He thinks only of himself – “He boasts of the cravings of his heart.” There is no place for the Lord in his life – “he reviles the Lord. In his pride the wicked does not seek Him: in all his thoughts there is no room for God”(vs. 3-4). Things are going well for him – “His ways are always prosperous.” He doesn’t give thanks to God – “he is haughty and Your laws are far from him.” He thinks that everything will keep on going his way – “He says to himself, ‘Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.’” (vs. 5-6). The wicked man shows contempt towards other people – “he sneers at all his enemies” (v. 5) – “His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength” (vs. 7-10). The wicked man thinks that he can do what he likes – “He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.’” (v. 11). Are we becoming like the wicked man? God is calling us to turn back to Him. * “Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless” (v.12). God is calling us to return to Him. He’s calling us to turn away from the way of the wicked. He’s calling us to walk with Him. When we pray, “Do not forget the helpless”, we begin by praying, “Lord, remember me, I need Your help.” We read about “the wicked” (vs. 13, 15). We read about “the victim” (v. 14). What is God saying to us? He’s saying to us, “Don’t be like the wicked man who reviles God. Don’t be like the wicked man who says to himself, “He won’t call me to account” (v. 13). He’s saying to us, “Be like the victim – ‘The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless’ (v. 14).” He’s saying to us, “There will be judgment – ‘the wicked and evil man will be called to account for his wickedness’ (v. 15).” He’s calling us back from the way that leads to judgment. He’s calling us to acknowledge that He “is King for ever and ever” (v. 16). He’s calling us to come to Him with “the desire of the afflicted” (v. 17). He’s speaking to us His Word of encouragement, assuring that we need not live in fear of man (vs. 17-18). Saved by the Lord, let us walk with Him in the pathway of victory.

Praise God for His Deliverance (Psalm 9).

 * The Psalmist worships the Lord (Psalm 9:1-2).
 * He does not speak proud words. He sees all things in the light of the holy God (Psalm 9:3-8).
 * At the heart of this Psalm, there is a declaration of the character of God (Psalm 9:7-8).
 * The majesty, righteousness and judgment of God - Have we lost these important aspects of God's character? Have we turned God into a sentimentalized 'god' of our own making? Let's not take God for granted. Let God be God. This is very different from insisting that God must be what we think He should be.
 * We read about God's trustworthiness (Psalm 9:9-10).
 * We praise God. We make it known that He is to be praised (Psalm 9:11-12).
 * In our worship, we speak of God's judgment as well as His salvation. (Psalm 9:12).
 * In our worship, we look to the Lord for mercy and, with joy, we praise Him for His salvation (Psalm 9:13-14).
 * As well as emphasizing that God is trustworthy, we must also emphasize that He is not to be taken for granted by proud unbelief (Psalm 9:15-16).
 * We must take seriously the radical contrast between the "wicked" and the "needy" (Psalm 9:17-18). Who are the "needy"? - Here, God's Word is speaking to us of the godly who recognize their spiritual need of the Lord's saving grace. By contrasting the "wicked" and the "needy", God is calling us to come to Him, in our need, and receive, from Him, his salvation.
 * There are two prayers which we must pray. - We must ask that God will make it known that He is Lord (Psalm 9:19).  We must ask that we will recognize that we are "but men" (Psalm 9:20).  When we recognize that God is God and we are but men, we are ready to be led to the Cross where we learn of both God's hatred of sin and God's love for the sinner. Thus, we come to the point where we are able to share, with the Psalmist, in worshipping the Lord (Psalm 9:1-2). We worship God as those who have come to trust in Him as the God of our salvation (Psalm 9:9-10).
 * Trusting in the Lord, the God of our salvation, our worship is heartfelt worship (Psalm 9:1). Trusting in the Lord, the God of our salvation, our worship is joyful worship (Psalm 9:2).

Psalm 8 - A Harvest Sermon

There is a physical harvest. There is a spiritual harvest. Can we expect a spiritual harvest in this generation? Or Must we give up hope and turn our backs to the wall? Ours is a time when nothing can be taken for granted. Many people are entirely dismissive of the whole idea that there is a God to whom we ought to offer our praise and thanksgiving. If ever there was a time for Christians to stand up and be counted as those who belong to Christ, this is it. If Christians remain silent, if Christians are ashamed of their Lord and Saviour, there will be a harvest, but it won’t be a godly harvest. It will be a harvest of unrighteousness.
What is happening in our time? – It’s the same thing that’s happened so many times before. It’s the same old story, a story which can be read in the pages of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is a great turning away from the truth. People only listen to what they want to hear. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. Can this situation be turned around? It will not be easy, but we must not be discouraged. Our God is the living God. He is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His love for us. He is mindful of us. We matter to Him. He is the God who forgives sin. He is the God who delights to show mercy. He is the God who longs to reveal His compassion to a generation that needs Him so much, but doesn’t know it.
To understand the character of God, we need to go back to Genesis 1. God is our Creator. He created us because He loves us. To understand the state of the world today, we need to go back to Genesis 3. There, the choice is made – my will rather than God’s will, “I did it my way” rather than “Let go and let God have His wonderful way.” This what produces a harvest of unrighteousness. Reversing this trend will not be easy, but we must not lose hope. We must learn to say, with the Psalmist, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy Name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1, 9). Unless God’s people are deeply committed to praising Him, we cannot even begin to hope for a real spiritual harvest in this generation.
Our attitude towards God should be a combination of two qualities which are often set against each other. They are fear and joy. There is to be the fear of the Lord. There is to be the joy of the Lord. We must never forget that God is our Creator, and we are His creatures. We must never forget that He is holy, and we have fallen far short of His holiness. We are “less than God” (Psalm 8:5). We must never forget this. We dare not take things into our own hands and try to “play God.” There needs to be the fear of the Lord. Without this, there will never be a harvest of righteousness.We must never forget that God loves us. He is the God of love, grace and mercy. The Psalmist tells us that this God, the God of love, grace and mercy, “crowns us with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:5). We must learn to rejoice in the Lord our God, the God of our salvation. There will only be a harvest of salvation where God’s peole are learning to rejoice in Him and give thanks for His salvation.
The Psalmist speaks about nature – the “heavens … the moon and the stars” (Psalm 8:3). He speaks also about dominion – “God has put all things under our feet.” In our generation, understanding of nature has increased enormously. Read scientific books. They are so much more sophisticated than books which were written even one generation ago. Our power to control our world has never been greater. We can do so much more than was even thought possible a generation ago. What has been going on in recent years? Some would say, “Progress, progress, progress, almost unlimited progress.” We must, however, be awkward and ask, “Is this the whole story? Has it been nothing but progress?” The honest answer must be, “Yes. There has been progress, but all is not well.” The world has become a very man-centred place. Many people have forgotten God. He has been left behind. So many have no time for Him. What must we do to stop our society going down the drain? What must we do to stop our society going to the dogs? We must give to God the place of highest honour.
The world has its idea of what it means to be wise. The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). If we are to use the fruits of our physical harvest, the results of our scientific and technological progress, in a way that leads to a  truly spiritual harvest, we must not forget God. We forget God at our peril. We lose sight of God, and we lose sight of all that is really important in life. We lose sight of God, and we lose sight of all that is truly wholesome. Putting God at the centre of our life – personal life, life in the family, life in the Church, life in society – , this is the way to a spiritual harvest which brings glory and praise to God. If, in today’s world, we are to enjoy a spiritual harvest which will be both satisfying to ourselves and glorifying to God, there are two things we must do. We must confess our sins. We must trust Christ for salvation. We look at our human situation – personally, locally, nationally and internationally – , and we say, “Apart from God, our situation is hopeless. Without Him, it will be nothing else but the downward slope.” We look then to the Cross of Christ, and we see that there is hope. If the Cross of Christ teaches us anything, it teaches us this, “No situation is too hopeless for the grace of God. However hopeless our situation may seem, it can be changed by the power and love of God.” There can still be a spiritual harvest, even in our difficult and distressing times, but it will not come unless we put Christ at the centre of our lives.

The Glory of the Lord in His Creation (Psalm 8)

This Psalm is a hymn of praise. It proclaims the glory of the Lord in His creation. The focus is not so much on the glories of nature. The great theme is the glory of Him who created nature. The Psalm begins and ends with the praise of God – “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (v. 1); “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (v. 9). The whole Psalm is filled with the fear of God and joy in God. The words of verse 2 – “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” – are quoted in the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ” ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:16). The reference to “children and infants” refers also to those who are without spiritual learning since they have not received spiritual instruction. How are we to receive real spiritual understanding? Each of us must become a babe in Christ by being humble before God, our Creator and Redeemer. The way of humility is the way in which we come to a proper understanding of God and ourselves – “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (vs. 3-4). In verse 3, the emphasis is upon God rather than nature. This leads us on, in verse 4, to the question, “What is man?” This question is grounded in the question, “Who is God?” – ” Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19). How are we to come to a right understanding of ourselves? We must not come to God as know-it- alls. We are to come to Him as worshippers. We learn, from this Psalm, that God’s revelation and our self-understanding are intimately related. The revelation of God enlightens our self-understanding. A true understanding of ourselves cannot be achieved if God is disregarded. By faith, we see ourselves from God’s perspective. He is our Creator. We are His creatures. We learn, from this Psalm, that God is midful of us. He cares for us. He is gracious towards us. He loves us. How are we to respond to God, our Creator? – We come, with awe, before His majesty. We come, with joy, because of His love. From verses 5-8, we learn that human dignity is a gift of God. This isn’t a song of praise to man. It’s a song of praise to God – “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). May God help us to worship Him with both awe and joy. As we rejoice in the Lord, let us not forget that He is the awesome God. As we bow before His majesty, let us not forget His love. Remembering how much He loves us, our hearts will be filled with true and lasting joy.

Personal Salvation (Psalm 7)

The Psalmist was being pursued by enemies who were intent on his full and final destruction. He puts his trust in the Lord. He looks to the Lord for salvation – “O Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me” (vs. 1-2). Following his opening words, we read about human sin – “O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe - then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust” (vs. 3-5) – and divine judgment – “Arise, O Lord, in Your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. Let the assembled peoples gather around You. Rule over them from on high; let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked” (vs. 6-9a). In thinking about what God is saying to us through this Psalm, we do not limit ourselves to looking at David and his pursuers. We look at human sin and divine judgment. This is the bad news concerning ourselves. We look also at personal salvation. This is the Good News concerning our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Human Sin * “O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me” (vs. 3-4). Looking beyond the immediate situation of David and his pursuers, we ask, “What are these words saying to us?” Here, we must be honest with ourselves, and we must be honest with God. There is no “if” about it! We are sinners. we are guilty. * “Let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust” (v.5). We do not look only at David and his pursuers. We look into our own hearts. We have a pursuer. His name is Satan. He is the devil. He is our “accuser” – he “accuses us before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). When we are honest with ourselves, and honest with God, we must confess that Satan has every right to accuse us. “Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). Satan has won the victory over every one of us. This is the bad news concerning every single one us – without any exceptions. Divine Judgment The bad news continues. Sin brings judgment. We cannot escape God’s judgment. We must confess our sins. We are “the wicked” (v. 9). “God is the righteous Judge.” God’s wrath “rests upon us (v. 11). We hear the bad news about human sin and divine judgment. We wonder, “Can ‘the wicked’ become ‘the righteous’?” (v.9). Is there a way in which guilty sinners can escape the righteous judgment of God? Is there a way in which we can be victorious over our pursuer? Personal Salvation We come to God with our questions. We ask about salvation – “Can my sin be forgiven?” We ask about victory – “Can I triumph over Satan?” God gives to us His answer. Yes! There is a way of salvation. Yes! There is a way of victory. Here, in this Psalm, we have God’s answer to two very important questions - “What must I do to be saved?“ - “What must I do to be lost?“ * In verses 9-10, we learn that it is the “righteous God” who “makes the righteous secure” – “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.” What must I do to be saved?” – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31); “God is righteous and He declares righteous those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Trusting in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), we receive the forgiveness of our sins – “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin” (1 John 1:7). We also enter into Christ’s victory over Satan – “They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb … ” (Revelation 12:11). Personal salvation is not about ourselves. It’s about our Saviour. We don’t save ourselves. Jesus saves us.
In verses 11-16, we have God’s answer to the very important question – “What must I do to be lost?” “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses His wrath every day. If He does not relent, He will sharpen His sword; He will bend and string His bow. He has prepared His deadly weapons; He makes ready His flaming arrows. He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.” We don’t enjoy reading this kind of thing. It doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves. It makes us realize that we have no right to feel good about ourselves. Before we can begin to appreciate the Good News of our Saviour’s love for us, we must give up on trying to feel good about ourselves and start listening to the honest truth about ourselves. What must I do to be lost? Do nothing. Just keep on trying to feel good about yourself. Just keep on turning a deaf ear to what God is saying to you about your sin. Just keep on refusing to take seriously God’s call to repentance. Just keep on living the way you have been living. God speaks to us with many warnings. He speaks of His righteous judgment. God speaks to us of His undeserved love. He calls us to return to Him. What happens when we keep on refusing to listen to what God is saying to us? We dig a hole for ourselves – ” He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made” (v. 15). We bring judgment upon ourselves – “The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head” (v. 16). The way of sin is a hopeless way – “He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment” (v. 14).
Is there a better way? Is there a way of salvation? Is there a way of victory? Jesus is the Way. He is the true and living Way (John 14:6). Thank God that this Psalm doesn’t end with the dark words of verse 16 – “his violence comes down on his own head.” Beyond the bad news concerning human sin and divine judgment, there is the Good News concerning personal salvation – “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (v. 17). The Psalmist moves from the inevitability of divine judgment (v. 16) to the assurance of personal salvation (v. 17). This is the work of divine grace. What are we to say about this? Is there a smooth passage way from divine judgment to personal salvation? No! Between divine judgment and personal salvation, there is the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is costly grace – Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. It is also free grace. We come in the emptiness of our sin and we receive the fullness of God’s salvation. At the Cross of Christ, we see both the judgment of God upon sin and the love of God for sinners. From the Cross of Christ, we hear the call to turn from sin and receive salvation. We look at ourselves. We see human sin. We look at the outcome of our sin. We see divine judgment. We look at the Cross of Christ – “We see Jesus … He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). This is love. This is the greatest love of all. This is divine love. It’s sacrificial love. It’s victorious love. It’s eternal love. “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is God’s answer to human sin. We look at our sin and our hearts are sad. We look at our Saviour and He makes us glad. How does our Saviour turn bring us our sadness and into His gladness? Is it an easy passage way – from sadness to gladness? No! For Jesus, it meant going to the Cross. It meant going to the place where He cried out, in deep spiritual agony, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). When we hear the words, “God so loved the world … “, let us never forget what it meant for our Saviour who “loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20) – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we consider our personal salvation, let us never forget our Saviour’s costly sacrifice, and let us say, from our hearts, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”

The Good News of salvation (Psalm 6)

(1) The Psalmist’s need of salvation
He comes to God in his need – “My soul is in anguish” (v. 3); “I am worn out from groaning” (v. 6); “My eyes grow weak with sorrow” (v.7). He looks to the future, and all that he sees is “the grave” (v. 5). 
(2) The Psalmist’s prayer for salvation
He looks to the Lord for salvation – “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (v. 4). He prays that God will not come under the judgment of God – O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath” (v. 1) He prays that God will have “mercy” on him – “Be merciful to me, Lord” (v.2) He trusts in God’s “unfailing love – “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (v. 4). 
(3) Repentance and Faith
In the Psalmist’s prayer, there is repentance - “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping” (v. 8) – and faith – “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (v. 9). 
(4) Assurance of Salvation
Coming to the Lord in repentance and faith, the Psalmist receives assurance of salvation – “the Lord accepts my prayer” (v. 9). 
(5) A Word of Warning and a Call to Repentance
“All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (v. 10). What are we to say about this final verse? Is the Psalmist gloating over his enemies? I believe that he’s saying something much more positive than that. He’s warning them, “This is what will happen if you refuse to repent.” He’s calling them to return to the Lord. The future need not be filled with shame, dismay and disgrace. Like him, their hearts can be turned back to the Lord. Their lives can be turned around for God. They need not remain God’s “enemies” for ever – “when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). We have been saved by the Lord. Let’s keep on proclaiming the Good News of Christ – “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Even the “enemies” of Christ can be saved by grace – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). —— We have come to God as sinners. He has heard and answered our prayer for salvation. Let us pray for others that they will bring their sin to the Saviour and will receive His salvation. When we pray for others, let us be bold in our prayers. The Good News of grace reaches beyond those whom the world may describe as ” a righteous man” “a good man” (Romans 5:7). We look at the Cross of Christ, and we remember this: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) – This is the Gospel of our salvation. As we rejoice in God’s salvation, let us make this our earnest prayer: “O that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me would all mankind embrace.” Having received God’s salvation, let us commit ourselves to sharing the Good News of His love: “’tis all my business here below to cry: ‘Behold the Lamb.’”

More Than A Morning Prayer: Psalm 5

“Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation” (v. 3). These are the words which have led to Psalm 5 being described as “a morning prayer.” It should, however, be noted that this is the only mention of “morning” in this Psalm. This Psalm is not only for the “morning”! Psalm 5 leads us to the Lord. It gives us a profound understanding of His character, It speaks to us about His holiness. In the first ten verses of this twelve-verse Psalm, we see two contrasting pictures. We see the believer before God. We see the unbeliever before God. We see the faithful. We see the faithless, We see the righteous. We see the wicked. We see ourselves standing in the presence of the holy God.
Here’s a summary of the Psalm: vs. 1-3, vs. 7-8 - a picture of the believer; vs. 4-6, vs. 9-10 – a picture of the unbeliever; vs. 11-12 – a statement of confident expectancy concerning the rich blessing of God which alone can bring joy to the hearts of God’s people.
vs. 1-3, 7-8 - Here, we see the believer as a man of prayer. In prayer, we see the believer’s true relationship with God. (a) It is a relationship of dependency. The believer depends on God. He depends on God because he needs God. We see this need for God and dependency on God in the intensity of the Psalmist’s prayer. He unburdens his heart to God. He speaks of his “groaning” (v. 1) and his “cry” (v. 2). This is not the comfortable prayer of a man who hardly cares whether or not his prayer is answered. This is “the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man” (James 5:16). This is the kind of prayer that God hears and answers. This is the kind of prayer that has “great power in its effects” (James 5:16). (b) It is a relationship of submission. It couldn’t be said that the Psalmist’s God was too small. It couldn’t be said that he took God for granted. It couldn’t be said that he brought God down to his own level. Look at how the Psalmist speaks of God – “my King and my God” (v. 2). He worships God. He praises God. He bows down before His God and King. Do we worship God like this? (c) It is a relationship that is personal. The Psalmist is aware that the Lord is God. He knows that the Lord is King. He doesn’t think of God as the unknown God. He doesn’t think of God as a dictatorial and tyrannical king. He speaks of my God and my King. Do we know God like this? (d) It is a relationship marked by regularity. The Psalmist didn’t regard his relationship with God take or leave. He didn’t just come to God when he felt like. He prayed regularly. Being a man of faith was a full-tine commitment. “Morning by morning”, he came to God in prayer. “Morning by morning”, he waited on the Lord. Do we seek God like this? (e) It is a relationship of grace. This is the most important thing that we can say about our relationship with God. The Psalmist knew that he had this relationship with God only “through the abundance of God’s steadfast love” (v. 7). Because of this grace, he had learned to fear the Lord. “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” In John Newton’s hymn, we hear an echo of the words of Psalm 130:4 – “there is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared”. The Psalmist seeks to live his life in (i) the assurance of forgiveness (his fears are relieved); and (ii) the fear of God (with a true humility of heart and reverence towards God). Do we know the true fear of God which relieves false fears?
vs. 4-6, 9-10 - Here, we see the unbeliever. More than that, we see the God of perfect holiness, and we learn that He is also the God of perfect love. God is holy. He is opposed to all that is evil. God is the Holy One. He is the enemy of all wickedness. We are not only concerned with the unbeliever. We learn about God’s verdict concerning sin. The words of verse 9 – “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit” – are quoted by Paul in Romans 3. These words are applied to every one of us. Concerning all of us, God’s verdict is “guilty.” We dare not allow ourselves to be swept along by the worldly attitude, which doesn’t take seriously. We must learn to see our sin in the light of God’s holiness. At the Cross of Christ, we see the anger of God in the service of the love of God. We look at Christ, crucified for us, and we learn that “God is not willing that any should perish. He wills that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We learn of God’s judgment upon sin and His love for sinners. God speaks to us about the seriousness of our sin. Why does He do this? Does He want to drive us to despair? No! He wants us to see the seriousness of our sin so that we will turn from our sin to Him. He wants us to see how much He loves us. He calls us to “turn our eyes upon Jesus.” He wants us to look at Jesus Christ, crucified for us. He wants us to see that His love is the greatest love of all. He wants us to begin a new life with Christ at the centre. He wants us to turn from all earthbound thinking and living. He wants us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” vs.11-12 - “But let all who take refuge in Thee rejoice. Let them ever sing for joy.” We turn from our sin. We turn to God. In Him, we find true joy, true love and true blessing. What the world cannot give to us, we find in Christ. We come to Him in our emptiness. He fills us with His fullness. Christ is our great Saviour. The Name of Jesus is the Name that is above every name. In Him, we have received “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). His love is the greatest love of all. He fills our hearts with true and lasting joy. In Psalm 5, we have a more than a morning prayer which we offer to God. We catch a glimpse of something that is far wonderful than that. We catch a glimpse of the eternal salvation which God has provided for us, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of sinners.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

14th-21st July: Exodus 27:20-34:35; Mark 14:1-52

14th July: Exodus 27:20-29:9
The 'lamp' was 'set up to burn continually' (27:20) - 'May we be a shining light...Let the flame burn brighter...' (Songs of Fellowship 389; Mission Praise, 743). A 'royal priesthood', we have been called by God - to let His light shine (1 Peter 2:9). He has called us to serve Him (28:1 John 15:16; Acts 20:28; 13:2; 9:15; Hebrews 5:4). The divine call is accompanied by a divine empowering - 'the Holy Spirit sent from heaven' (1 Peter 1:12). We are precious to God - Our 'names' are written on His heart (9-12,21,29-30; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; John 10:3). In Christ we are cleansed (29:4 1 John 1:7), anointed (29:7; 1 John 2:27) and robed (29:5-6,8-9; Isaiah 61:10). In Christ, we have 'the best robe' (28:2; Luke 15:22; Revelation 7:9-10,13-14). In Him, we are 'consecrated' by the Word and 'anointed' by the Spirit (28:3,41; John 17:17; 14:16-17, 26; 16:13-14).
15th July: Exodus 29:10-46
There is a great contrast between the many sacrifices of the Old Testament and the one sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:1-4, 10-14). Looking to Christ, we focus attention on verses 42-46. For God's people, 'the tent of meeting' was a special place concerning which God said, 'I will meet with you, to speak there to you. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My glory' (42-43). Let us pray that, in both the pulpit and the pew, there will be the glory of God. Aaron and his sons were 'consecrated to serve' (44). We look beyond them to Christ who 'came serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45). He dwells among us (45; John 1:14). He has provided for us a 'better' redemption than the redemption of Israel from Egypt - He is 'much more excellent' (46; Hebrews 8:6; 9:23-24).
16th July: Exodus 30:1-38
The Word of God ('the testimony') declares the mercy of God, leading to our meeting with God (6). We highlight several features of our worship: (a) 'the blood of the sin offering of atonement' (10) - This points to the 'how much more' sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for us (Hebrews 9:13-14); (b) 'washing' (18) - Christ 'has washed us from our sins in His blood' (Revelation 1:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5-6); (c) 'holy anointing oil' (25) - We are to be 'consecrated', 'most holy', servants of the Lord, 'making holiness perfect in the fear of God', living in the power of the Holy Spirit (29-30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Zechariah 4:6); (d) 'incense' (35) - We are to be 'the aroma of Christ', spreading His 'fragrance' (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Christlike living is grounded in prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
17th July: Mark 14:1-25
Jesus was surrounded by enemies, 'seeking to kill Him' (1). There was also a hypocrite, preparing 'to betray Him' (10-11). What a joy it was to find a woman with such heartfelt love for Him (3-9). Her love for Christ must never be forgotten (9). There is something else which must never be forgotten - His love for us. Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper (22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), we rejoice in His love. Think little of your love for Him. Think much of His love for you. 'Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise? He can never be forgotten throughout heaven's eternal days' (Songs of Fellowship, 168). Remember Christ, and let your remembering be filled with worship (25; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16-17).
18th July: Exodus 31:1-32:14
'Called' by God and 'filled' with His Spirit (31:1-3), Bezalel had the support of Oholiab and 'all able men' (31:6). Few may be called and equipped to lead, but many are required for God's work to be done - effectively (1 Corinthians 12:4-10). 'All' of us receive our strength from the 'Spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:11). We offer ourselves in service with this faith, 'Jesus is Lord'. Faith is God's gift: 'no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit'. There are many gifts. They are varied expressions of one gift: the faith which confesses that 'Jesus is Lord' (1 Corinthians 12:3). The people fell into idolatry and immorality (32:6): a 'warning' to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-12). We have God's help - to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10: 13). Moses sets for us a godly example: he spent time with God, hearing His voice and prevailing in prayer (32:1,7-14).
19th July: Exodus 32:15-33:23
In Moses, we see the holiness and love of God: a deep hatred of sin (32:19), an intense longing for sinners to be forgiven (32). Filled with 'the fear of the Lord', Moses was fearless before men. God's Word to sinners is clear: He warns them (Proverbs 29:1); He calls them to repent (Acts 2:38); He invites them to return to Him (Hosea 6:1). Moses' faithful and fearless preaching emerged from his closeness to God: 'The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend' (11). Moses prayed; God heard; God answered (33:17). Moses prayed for a revelation of God's glory (33:18). God revealed Himself as the good God, the God of grace and mercy (32:19). Let us go up to God and bring down all that is needed to build the Body of Christ that God may take pleasure in it and that He may appear in His glory (Haggai 1:8).
20th July: Exodus 34:1-35
God gives His promise (33:19). God keeps His promise (5-7). The glory of Christ is revealed to those who are learning to love Him (John 14:21). We are not yet ready for the full glory (33:20). When Christ returns, 'we shall see Him as He is' (1 John 3:2). There is to be 'no other god' but the Lord (14). We are not to be squeezed into the world's mould (Romans 12:2). 'No molten gods', 'no graven image' - We are to be remoulded by God, 'conformed to the image of His Son' (17; 20:4; Romans 12:2; 8:29). Moses' face was shining - Other people noticed (29)! Let others see Christ in you. Never take pride in your own spirituality - 'If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not know (the Lord) as he ought to know (Him)' (1 Corinthians 8:2). Keep your eyes on Jesus. The glory comes from Him. No glory for me - All glory to Him (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
21st July: Mark 14:26-52
After 'they had sung a hymn' (26), Peter showed that there was a great deal of 'self' in him (29). All of us can be like this - 'they all said the same' (31). We attend Communion (22-24), we sing hymns (26) - yet still the wrong attitudes persist! We 'enjoy' praise, prayer, and preaching - Remember: God is concerned with the whole of life, not just the 'spiritual' activities! Christ looked ahead to the Cross - 'the hour', 'this cup' (35-36). He was far removed from an 'enjoyable atmosphere' within which prayer is 'easy'. Sorely tempted, He prayed, 'not what I will but what You will' (36). This was no easy road - the 'betrayer' was waiting for Him (42). It was a lonely road - 'they all forsook Him, and fled' (50). 'The gate is narrow, the way is hard' (Matthew 7:14). May God help us to follow Jesus.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

“Thoughts in the Night”: An Evening Psalm – Psalm 4

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for Thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety” (v.8). Here, in its closing verse, we find the central theme of Psalm 4 – peace, the peace of God. This Psalm can be divided into four sections: v. 1 - prayer for help; vs. 2-3 - reproof of his enemies; vs. 4-5 - exhortation of his enemies; vs. 6-8 - confidence in God.
 It is in the closing section (vs. 6-8) that we come to the heart of this Psalm’s message for us – the peace of God and confidence in God. The Psalm points us to the peace of God so that we might have confidence in God. Before we come to the Psalmist’s confident affirmation of the peace of God, we must first take a look at his struggle to cope with the opposition that comes from those who mock him (v. 2). He is able to cope with this opposition because he has come to rejoice in God as a prayer-answering God (v. 1).
v.1 : prayer for help The Psalmist had learned that his own experience of the divine mercy was the strongest support on which he could always rely in times of trouble. On many occasions, the Psalmist had experienced this divine mercy. God had heard his prayer. God had answered his prayer. God had helped him. This was the firm foundation on which he was able to take his stand in the face of fierce opposition.
vs. 2-3 : reproof of his enemies
v. 2 – From his faith in the divine mercy, the Psalmist derived spiritual authority with which he was able, with clarity and conviction, to reprove the doubts and reproaches of his opponents. His directness of speech comes from his realization that when anyone slanders the man of God, they are also slandering God. Note that reproof opens the door for return. He is calling upon them to return to the Lord. By asking the questions, “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?”, he is saying, “Is it not time that you stopped slandering God and started worshipping Him?”
v.3 – Here, the Psalmist is giving his testimony. He’s no longer reproving. He’s evangelizing. To his backslidden friends, he has asked the question, “How long will you ignore God’s grace?” Now, he is saying to them, “God has been gracious to me. Can you not see this? He is my Saviour. He can also be your Saviour.”
vs. 4-5 : exhortation of his enemies
v. 4 – Here, the Psalmist offers some pastoral advice to his backslidden friends. They have made themselves his enemies. He says to them, “Tremble, and sin not!” (v. 4a). They are to tremble before God. They are to fear God. They are to stand in awe of God. With a wholesome fear of God and a true reverence of God, these men are to turn from sin. God is calling them to repentance. When they are in the quietness of their own beds, they are to think seriously about their relation to God (v. 4b). Why does he specify the night time? He knows that our thoughts are easily distracted when we are out and about among people. He knows that, when we are on our own in the quietness of the night, we can think more seriously about the things that really matter. These men are being called to get alone with God so that they might examine themselves with true honesty.
v. 5 – God is not looking only for outward ceremonies. He’s looking for pure sacrifices, offered in a spirit of faith, humility, sincerity and heartfelt repentance. There’s something more important that the outward sacrifice. It’s the state of the heart before God. The Psalmist is urging his backslidden friends to return to the Lord. He’s calling them to get to know the love of God in their hearts and lives.
vs. 6-8 - confidence in God
v. 6 – Many are content with material prosperity. They enjoy the worldly blessings, which they have received from God. They never think of giving thanks to God. The Psalmist prays that the light of God’s countenance may shine upon us. He prays that God may look upon us with a Father’s love. Those who put their trust in prosperity have a form of happiness. It is not, however, true joy. Those who seek happiness in a worldly way of living need to be reminded that true joy is found in God alone.
v. 7 - “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather have Jesus than riches untold.” “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” The joy of the Lord is the believer’s most priceless possession. The Psalmist speaks of light, joy and peace. We will only know the joy of the Lord when when the Father’s love shines upon us. We will only know the peace of God when we have the joy of the Lord, lifting our hearts.
v. 8 : We have received the Psalmist’s testimony concerning the grace of God in his life. Let’s turn to the Lord with sincerity of heart. Let’s come to Him and enter into the joy of His favour. Let’s receive the gift of His peace into our hearts. God’s peace in our hearts – What a wonderful blessing this is. This blessing can be ours through faith in Christ. May God grant that His peace will be given to each one of us.

Worshipping the Lord: Learning From The Psalms

In Psalm 4, there is a great message of the Gospel. By ourselves, we are sinners, turning God’s glory to shame, loving delusions and seeking false gods (Psalm 4:2). By grace, God has done something about this - ‘the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself’ (Psalm 4:3). When we pray, ‘Answer me’ (Psalm 4:1), we have this confidence: ‘the Lord will hear when I call to Him’ (Psalm 4:3). The Lord hears the sinner’s prayer, ‘Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer’ (Psalm 4:1). Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation). This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In Christ, we have a ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ which the world can neither give nor take away (Psalm 4:7-8). When the seeking sinner comes with question, ‘Who can show us any good?’ (Psalm 4:6), the Gospel Answer is always the same - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Psalm 5 is a morning prayer: ‘morning by morning’, we are to come before the Lord ‘in expectation’ of His blessing (Psalm 5:3). The Psalmist prays with great earnestness. His prayer is a ‘sighing’ before God, a ‘cry for help’(Psalm 5:1-2). He acknowledges the holiness of God: ‘You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, with you the wicked cannot dwell’(Psalm 5:4). The words of Psalm 5:9 apply to every one of us. Paul quotes this verse in support of the conclusion that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’(Romans 3:13, 23). There is, however, a way of coming to God. It is ‘by His mercy’(Psalm 5:7). Each of us has been declared guilty by God (Psalm 5:10; Romans 3:19-20). For the fallen, God has provided a way of forgiveness. For the guilty, He has provided a way to gladness (Psalm 5:11; Luke 2:10-11). ‘Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’(Church Hymnary, 380).

‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’(Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’(Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’(1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’(Psalm 16:5,9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.

The first three verses of Psalm 18 set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: ‘my rock, my fortress and my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’(Psalm 18:1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - ‘I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies’- did not come easily (Psalm 18:4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (Psalm 18:13-14). ‘The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...’(Psalm 18:4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the ‘victory’ over ‘the last enemy...death’(1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into ‘a broad place’(Psalm 18:19). Step into the future with Him. Don’t hold back! ‘Let go and let God have His wonderful way’.

‘This God’ is ‘our God’. He is ‘the Rock’. He is ‘my Rock’. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (Psalm 18:30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: ‘You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty’. In our God, we have victory: ‘You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet’(Psalm 18:27,39). Do you want to enjoy God’s blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, ‘Clothe yourselves with humility’. Together with His command, we have God’s warning- ‘God opposes the proud’- and God’s promise- He ‘gives grace to the humble’(1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? There is an answer which of us must give: ‘We are on the Lord’s side’(Church Hymnary, 479).

Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’(Psalm 22:1,16). Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’(Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’(Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’(John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).

Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’(Psalm 22:22,27,30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’(Hebrews 13:8; Hebrews 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’(Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).

For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’(Psalm 24:7,9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’(Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).

God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’(Psalm 26:3). Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12). Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’ us (Psalm 26:4-5, 9-10; Psalm 27:2-3,6,11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’(Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’(Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’(Psalm 27:1,3).

‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(Psalm 30:11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).

Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’(Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’(Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’(Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’(Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’(Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).

Those who ‘trust in the Lord...will dwell in the land’. Those who turn from Him will ‘perish’(Psalm 37:3,20). Through faith in Christ, we look ahead to ‘a heavenly country’, ‘better’ than anything we will know on earth (Hebrews 11:16; Philippians 3:20). We have caught sight of ‘a happy land, far, far away, where saints in glory stand, bright, bright as day’. We have heard the sound of their song - ‘O how they sweetly sing, “Worthy is our Saviour King!”’ We lift our voices to the Lord - ‘Loud let His praises ring, praise, praise for aye’. Still, some are perishing. They have not come to Christ for salvation. To them, we say, ‘Come to this happy land, come, come away; Why will ye doubting stand? Why, still delay?’(Revised Church Hymnary, 587). Trust in the Lord now and look forward to being with Him in heaven.

Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:5,11; Psalm 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’(1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’(Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’(Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’(1 Corinthians 2:10).

'Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy'(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’(Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’(Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’(Psalm 10; Psalm 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).

‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised’(Psalm 48:1). We worship God in the place of worship - ‘Within Your Temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love’. Our worship must not end there. We are to play our part in seeing that the praise of the Lord ‘reaches to the ends of the earth’. We are to ‘be glad’ in the Lord. We are to ‘rejoice’ in Him (Psalm 48:9-11). We must not keep this joy to ourselves. The Lord is ‘the joy of all the earth’. We must share His joy. We are to ‘tell the next generation’. How will they know if we do not tell them? Many are slow to come and worship the Lord. We must not be slow to witness for Him. Let’s remember God’s promise - ‘My Word...will not return to Me empty, but will...achieve the purpose for which I sent it’- and let’s say - ‘Here am I. Send me!’(Isaiah 55:11; 6:8).

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God... Cast me not away from Thy presence... Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’(Psalm 51:10-12). These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God. You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’(John 6:37). You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’- ‘born of God’(John 3:3,7; 1:12). You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’(Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.

The Lord is ‘my Rock and my Salvation’(Psalm 62:2,6). As you read the Psalmist’s words, let your thoughts turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our ‘Rock’- the ‘Rock’ of our salvation. Through ‘the blood of Christ’, we receive the greatest ‘blessing’ of all - salvation (1 Corinthians 10:1-4,16). No other blessing can ever compare with the joy of knowing Christ as Saviour: ‘Your steadfast love is better than life’. Through our great Saviour - the Lord Jesus Christ - , we are learning to ‘praise’ God. We are learning to say, with the Psalmist, ‘I will praise You as long as I live’(Psalm 63:3-4). What a great Saviour we have. He is greater than all our songs of praise. He is ‘too marvellous for words’- ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(Mission Praise, 788; 2 Corinthians 9:15).

‘Come and see what God has done’(Psalm 66:5). God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us. ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’(Psalm 66:16). God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives. We read God’s Word. We hear His Word. This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us. He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’. He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’(Psalm 67:1,6-7). He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’(Psalm 67:4,7).

God is ‘our salvation’. He is the ‘God of salvation’(Psalm 68:19-20). God’s salvation covers our past, present and future. (a) You have been saved. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have received the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 5:1). (b) You are being saved. God is at work in our lives, making us the kind of people He wants us to be (Romans 5:3-5). (c) You will be saved. We look forward to ‘sharing the glory of God’, being with the Lord forever (Romans 5:2,9-10). From beginning to end, salvation is the work of God – He has forgiven our sins. He is making us like Christ. He will lead us on to heaven. Our God is great. His salvation is great. Let us ‘be joyful’. Let us worship the Lord ‘with joy’(Psalm 68:3). Let us give all the glory to God - ‘Blessed be God!’(Psalm 68:35).

David is going through ‘the deep waters’ of suffering. He prays to the Lord for deliverance from ‘the flood’ and ‘the deep’(Psalm 69:14-15). He had sinned against the Lord. He does not try to hide this. He confesses his sin and guilt - ‘the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You’(Psalm 69:5). He looks to the Lord, remembering that He is the God of ‘steadfast love’ and ‘abundant mercy’(Psalm 69:16). When you come to God in prayer, do not try to hide your sins from Him. Remember - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. In Christ, there is ‘mercy’- God doesn’t send the judgment we deserve - and ‘grace’- God sends the blessing we don’t deserve. Come to Christ and receive His ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’(1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).

Read the words - ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’(Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ. His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’(Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16). Read the words - ‘all nations call Him blessed’(Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ. ‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9). Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’(Psalm 72:19) - and think of Christ. In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’(Revelation 21:1-2,10-11,23; John 1:29).

‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). This is much more than paying lip-service to the Lord. This is real. Worshipping the Lord meant everything to the Psalmist: ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2). He found great joy in worshipping the Lord: ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me... to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight...’(Psalm 43:4). He worshipped God with his whole heart: ‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You... my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfetlt worship. May God help us to worship Him like that!

‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you... Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart... For great is Your love towards me’(Psalm 86:5,11-13). God loves us. He forgives our sins. We receive His love. We want to love Him more. His love inspires our praise - ‘I will praise You...’. His love inspires our prayer - ‘Teach me Your way...’. Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love - ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’(Psalm 86:4). We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is- ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what He has done for us - ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’(Psalm 86:15,17).

‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’(Psalm 89:1). Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever’. He is to be praised ‘through all generations’. We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us. This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever...’.

‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’(Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’. Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’(Psalm 91:3). God has given us His warning. We must ‘be alert’- ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. He also gives us His promise - ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. How are we to resist the devil? - We are to ‘resist him, standing firm in the faith’(1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7). We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. We must resist him in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the victory - ‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’(1 Corinthians 15:57). Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’(Matthew 6:13).

‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’(Psalm 92:8; Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’- This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’ the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’(Psalm 97:9; Psalm 29:10; Mission Praise, 158,217,388,507).

‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’. He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’. He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’(Church Hymnary, 35,36,388,360,86). His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life. He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life. Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do. We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’ and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).

‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’(Psalm 99:5,9; Psalm 98:4,6; Psalm 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’(Psalm 99:5,9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(Psalm 100:5; Psalm 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’. Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

‘Praise the Lord’(Psalm 103:1-2,20-22). Let’s praise Him for His ‘steadfast love’. He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’(Psalm 103:8). How are we to respond to His ‘steadfast love’? Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’? No! We must not think like this. We’re not to say, ‘I’ll keep on sinning. God will keep on forgiving’(Romans 6:1-2). God’s Word tells us something very different. Loved by God, we learn to love Him. When God’s ‘steadfast love’ has really touched our hearts, it changes our lives. This is the great change which the Psalmist has in mind when he writes, ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him... The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him’(Psalm 103:11,17). Let’s thank God for His love - and live to please Him!

‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done...’(Psalm 105:4-5). The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(Philippians 4:13). How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always. We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated. He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won. As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape...’(1 Corinthians 10:13).

‘He brought His people out with joy’(Psalm 105:43). When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’(Nehemiah 8:10). We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’. The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’(Philippians 4:4,19). When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’(2 Corinthians 12:9). Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’(Psalm 105:118:14-15).

In Psalm 106, we read here about sin and salvation. There is a very realistic description of Israel’s sin - ‘They soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel... They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His promise... They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord... They rebelled against the Spirit of God’(Psalm 106:13,24-25,33). This is not only ancient history. It’s the story of our life! We read this, and we must join in Israel’s confession of sin: ‘We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly’(Psalm 106:6). The history of Israel is not only a history of sin. It is also a history of salvation: ‘He saved them...’(Psalm 106:8,10). As we read of God’s salvation, we must echo the prayer of God’s people - ‘Save us, O Lord our God...’- and join with them in praising God - ‘Praise be to the Lord...’(Psalm 106:47-48).

‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’(Psalm 113:4-5; Psalm 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).

‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’(Psalm 116:1-2). Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life. What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’(Psalm 117:2). When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us. When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us. He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak. In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’(Church Hymnary, 450).

Throughout life, we have to make choices. Some choices are relatively straightforward. Others are very much more difficult. Some choices don’t affect the rest of our life very much. There are, however, choices which affect the whole of our life. There is one choice which is more important than any other - Choosing the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Those who refuse to choose are ‘double-minded’(Psalm 119:113). They can’t make up their mind. They know that they should be following Christ - but they are still ‘in love with the world’. They are ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (I John 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:4). Make your choice. Say to the world, ‘Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God’. Say to God, ‘I have decided to obey Your laws until the day I die’ (Psalm 119:115,112).

‘Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips’ (Psalm 120:2). God calls us to ‘believe the truth’, ‘love the truth’ and ‘follow the truth’. We are to be people who ‘do what is true’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 3 John 3-4; John 3:21). How can we be such people? We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is ‘the Truth’ (Hebrews 12:2; John 14:6). When we are tempted to turn away from the pathway of truth, we must remember this: ‘My help comes from the Lord’. We must remember God’s promise: ‘The Lord is your Keeper...The Lord will keep you from all evil’. God’s promise is not only for ‘this time’. It’s ‘for evermore’(Psalm 121:2,5,7-8). This gives us glorious hope as we keep on looking to Christ,‘eagerly awaiting’ His Return ( Hebrews 9:28).

‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We  seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’ - In Him we have the victory  (Psalm 123:2; Psalm 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’. When  we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like ‘the foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’ (Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ - ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (Psalm 139:24; 1 John 5:11). God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’ - ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true...’ (Psalm 139:6; Church Hymnary, 385). God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain’. We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’ (Psalm 139:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). ‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’(Psalm 139:24).

The Psalmist continues to emphasize the importance of ‘prayer’ in our battle against ‘evildoers’: ‘My prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers’ (Psalm 141:5). We pray that their ‘wicked deeds’ will not succeed. We pray that they will see ‘the error of their way’, returning to the Lord and being ‘led in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake’ (Psalm 141:5; Psalm 23:3; James 5:19-20). We may feel that our ‘persecutors’ are ‘too strong’ for us. We must never think that ‘no one cares’. We must bring our fear to God, praying, ‘Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your Name’. Faced with powerful enemies, we must remember this: The Lord is our ‘portion in the land of the living’. In the face of fierce opposition, we must learn to say, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 142:4-7; Psalm 23:6).

The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit - ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (Psalm 143:8,10,12).

‘Praise the Lord’. Psalms 146 and 147 began and ended with these words. Now, we find the same beginning and ending in each of these three Psalms - ‘Praise the Lord’. Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 144:1,9; Psalm 145:1-2,21; Psalm 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150:6). May these great Psalms of praise inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.

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