Monday, March 31, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 90

 Psalms 90(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A prayer by Moses, the man of God.) Our Lord, in all generations you have been our home.
  2. You have always been God-- long before the birth of the mountains, even before you created the earth and the world.
  3. At your command we die and turn back to dust,
  4. but a thousand years mean nothing to you! They are merely a day gone by or a few hours in the night.
  5. You bring our lives to an end just like a dream. We are merely tender grass
  6. that sprouts and grows in the morning, but dries up by evening.
  7. Your furious anger frightens and destroys us,
  8. and you know all of our sins, even those we do in secret.
  9. Your anger is a burden each day we live, then life ends like a sigh.
  10. We can expect seventy years, or maybe eighty, if we are healthy, but even our best years bring trouble and sorrow. Suddenly our time is up, and we disappear.
  11. No one knows the full power of your furious anger, but it is as great as the fear that we owe to you.
  12. Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.
  13. Help us, LORD! Don't wait! Pity your servants.
  14. When morning comes, let your love satisfy all our needs. Then we can celebrate and be glad for what time we have left.
  15. Make us happy for as long as you caused us trouble and sorrow.
  16. Do wonderful things for us, your servants, and show your mighty power to our children.
  17. Our Lord and our God, treat us with kindness and let all go well for us. Please let all go well!

Psalms 90 was written by Moses and is thought to have been written during Israel's wonderings through the Sinai desert. These meaningless wonderings seemingly gave a meaningless perspective on life. All due to Israel's sin. This perspective comes through in Moses' thoughts in this psalm.

God is eternal, but by comparison a lifetime for man is like grass that sprouts in the morning and withers by evening. And when this life is lived under the terror of God's wrath due to man's sin, the days "ebb away" and end "like a sigh." (90:9) Moses prayed that God would teach them to "number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts." Then maybe God's wrath would turn and He would "have compassion on Your servants." (90:13) Then he asked that God would "Make us rejoice for as many days as You have humbled us, for as many years as we have seen adversity." Then, instead of futility in life they would see the fruit of their efforts. Or, as Moses prayed, "establish for us the work of our hands." (90:17)

Life has meaning only when lived in fellowship with our Creator. Apart from that it is as meaningless as the grass that sprouts in the morning and withers by evening. This isn't because God is an angry wrathful God, but because man is stubborn and insists on doing it his way. We don't want to give up control of our lives, blind to the fact that allowing the One who gave us life to direct our lives is the only way for it to have meaning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 89

 Psalms 89(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A special psalm by Ethan the Ezrahite.) Our LORD, I will sing of your love forever. Everyone yet to be born will hear me praise your faithfulness.
  2. I will tell them, "God's love can always be trusted, and his faithfulness lasts as long as the heavens."
  3. You said, "David, my servant, is my chosen one, and this is the agreement I made with him:
  4. David, one of your descendants will always be king."
  5. Our LORD, let the heavens now praise your miracles, and let all of your angels praise your faithfulness.
  6. None who live in the heavens can compare with you.
  7. You are the most fearsome of all who live in heaven; all the others fear and greatly honor you.
  8. You are LORD God All-Powerful! No one is as loving and faithful as you are.
  9. You rule the roaring sea and calm its waves.
  10. You crushed the monster Rahab, and with your powerful arm you scattered your enemies.
  11. The heavens and the earth belong to you. And so does the world with all its people because you created them
  12. and everything else. Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon gladly praise you.
  13. You are strong and mighty!
  14. Your kingdom is ruled by justice and fairness with love and faithfulness leading the way.
  15. Our LORD, you bless those who join in the festival and walk in the brightness of your presence.
  16. We are happy all day because of you, and your saving power brings honor to us.
  17. Your own glorious power makes us strong, and because of your kindness, our strength increases.
  18. Our LORD and our King, the Holy One of Israel, you are truly our shield.
  19. In a vision, you once said to your faithful followers: "I have helped a mighty hero. I chose him from my people and made him famous.
  20. David, my servant, is the one I chose to be king,
  21. and I will always be there to help and strengthen him.
  22. "No enemy will outsmart David, and he won't be defeated by any hateful people.
  23. I will strike down and crush his troublesome enemies.
  24. He will always be able to depend on my love, and I will make him strong with my own power.
  25. I will let him rule the lands across the rivers and seas.
  26. He will say to me, 'You are my Father and my God, as well as the mighty rock where I am safe.'
  27. "I have chosen David as my first-born son, and he will be the ruler of all kings on earth.
  28. My love for him will last, and my agreement with him will never be broken.
  29. "One of David's descendants will always be king, and his family will rule until the sky disappears.
  30. Suppose some of his children should reject my Law and refuse my instructions.
  31. Or suppose they should disobey all of my teachings.
  32. Then I will correct and punish them because of their sins.
  33. But I will always love David and faithfully keep all of my promises to him.
  34. "I won't break my agreement or go back on my word.
  35. I have sworn once and for all by my own holy name, and I won't lie to David.
  36. His family will always rule. I will let his kingdom last as long as the sun
  37. and moon appear in the sky."
  38. You are now angry, God, and you have turned your back on your chosen king.
  39. You broke off your agreement with your servant, the king, and you completely destroyed his kingdom.
  40. The walls of his city have been broken through, and every fortress now lies in ruin.
  41. All who pass by take what they want, and nations everywhere joke about the king.
  42. You made his enemies powerful and let them celebrate.
  43. But you forced him to retreat because you did not fight on his side.
  44. You took his crown and threw his throne in the dirt.
  45. You made an old man of him and put him to shame.
  46. How much longer, LORD? Will you hide forever? How long will your anger keep burning like fire?
  47. Remember, life is short! Why did you empty our lives of all meaning?
  48. No one can escape the power of death and the grave.
  49. Our Lord, where is the love you have always shown and that you promised so faithfully to David?
  50. Remember your servant, Lord! People make jokes about me, and I suffer many insults.
  51. I am your chosen one, but your enemies chase and make fun of me.
  52. Our LORD, we praise you forever. Amen and amen.

The psalmist for Psalms 89 was Ethan, a Levite, who was petitioning God to remember His covenant with King David and restore Israel and the throne of the Davidic king. The occasion is not known but was a time when Israel was defeated, many of its cities destroyed and the king made a mockery among other nations.
Verses 1-14 speak of God's greatness. He is a faithful God to all generations. Creation bears witness of His greatness. There is no power in heaven or earth greater than He. And yet, He rules with righteousness and justice and His faithful love and truth go before Him in all He does. "Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; LORD, they walk in the light of Your presence. They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness." (89:15-16)

Then in verses 19-27 the psalmist reviews the covenant God made with David, "I have found David My servant; I have anointed him with My sacred oil. My hand will always be with him, and My arm will strengthen him." (89:20-21) The covenant included David's descendants, "His offspring will continue forever, his throne like the sun before Me, like the moon, established forever, a faithful witness in the sky." (89:36-37) It was a descendant of David whose throne had been overturned, and the psalmist concludes his review of the Davidic covenant with a "but." "But You have spurned and rejected him; You have become enraged with Your anointed." (89:38) The covenant had been repudiated. The king's splendor had cease and his throne overturned.

Then came the question, "How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your anger keep burning like fire?" (89:46) Followed by another question, "Lord, where are the former acts of Your faithful love that You swore to David in Your faithfulness?" (89:46) Next he asked the Lord to remember how the Lord's enemies had ridiculed "every step of Your anointed." (89:51) In other words, remember and do something about it. And then he simply concluded the psalm with the words, "May the LORD be praised forever. Amen and amen." (89:52)

Probably the greatest test of our faith is to be in dire need and our wait for the Lord's intervention to be drawn out. It helps to be able to reflect on what the Lord has done in the past, but the longer we wait the more doubts come in on us as to whether He will deliver us this time. As did this psalmist, we can take our concerns to the Lord and remind ourselves of His faithfulness in the past. And then we should simply give Him praise and leave the burden with Him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 88

 Psalms 88(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A song and a psalm by the people of Korah for the music leader. To the tune "Mahalath Leannoth." A special psalm by Heman the Ezrahite.) You keep me safe, LORD God. So when I pray at night,
  2. please listen carefully to each of my concerns.
  3. I am deeply troubled and close to death;
  4. I am as good as dead and completely helpless.
  5. I am no better off than those in the grave, those you have forgotten and no longer help.
  6. You have put me in the deepest and darkest grave;
  7. your anger rolls over me like ocean waves.
  8. You have made my friends turn in horror from me. I am a prisoner who cannot escape,
  9. and I am almost blind because of my sorrow. Each day I lift my hands in prayer to you, LORD.
  10. Do you work miracles for the dead? Do they stand up and praise you?
  11. Are your love and loyalty announced in the world of the dead?
  12. Do they know of your miracles or your saving power in the dark world below where all is forgotten?
  13. Each morning I pray to you, LORD.
  14. Why do you reject me? Why do you turn from me?
  15. Ever since I was a child, I have been sick and close to death. You have terrified me and made me helpless.
  16. Your anger is like a flood! And I am shattered by your furious attacks
  17. that strike each day and from every side.
  18. My friends and neighbors have turned against me because of you, and now darkness is my only companion.

Psalms 88 is recognized as the saddest psalm in the book. The brightest spot in the whole psalm is the opening phrase: "Lord, God of my salvation." Despite the psalmist's misery and length of suffering, he still looked to God as his salvation. But he also attributed his suffering to God. He pointed out that his troubles had brought him near the grave and in fact was counted by others as approaching the grave. He had been abandoned by family and friends as if he were already dead. And having described his situation he told the Lord that He had put him in this position: "You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit, in the darkest places, in the depths. Your wrath weighs heavily on me; You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves." (88:6-7)

He then attempted to plead his case before the Lord on the bases of being useless to the Lord after death. He does so through a series of questions: Can the Lord work wonders for him after he is dead? Can the dead give Him praise? Can the Lord exercise His faithful love for the dead? His questions reveal the lack of complete knowledge about death and the hereafter by Old Testament believers. Knowledge that came later through Jesus Christ. Therefore he viewed the grave as the end which gave him more reason to avoid death. However, in reality he would be praising the Lord more in death when he was in the presence of the Lord than in life when His glory is not fully revealed.

Following this appeal, the psalmist returned to describing his plight. He had been afflicted "from my youth." He saw in this that the Lord's "wrath sweeps over me; Your terrors destroy me." From his perspective all of this was from the Lord. And furthermore, the Lord had "distanced loved one and neighbor from me; darkness is my only friend." (88:18) And if the Lord was the source of his trouble He was the only one to whom he could direct his appeal. Therefore, he said, "I call to You for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer meets You." (88:13)

Besides his incomplete understanding of death from an Old Testament perspective, he also had a flawed perspective regarding God's involvement in his troubles. He assumed them to be God's punishment, an assumption one cannot automatically make. Was there sin in his life for which he was receiving this punishment? He makes no such reference. Maybe he thought it to be sin for which he was unaware? But Jesus dispelled this thinking in an incident in which some people reported that some Galileans had been persecuted by Pilate. The assumption was that these Galilians must have some great sin for which they were being punished. But Jesus asked them, "Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all Galileans because they suffered these things?" (Luke 13:2) Then He said to them, "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!" The Galileans were no more sinful than the ones reporting the incident to Jesus. We all have sin and will all perish unless we repent of our sin. The suffering of the Galileans was not due to their sin.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 87

 Psalms 87(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm and a song by the people of Korah.) Zion was built by the LORD on the holy mountain,
  2. and he loves that city more than any other place in all of Israel.
  3. Zion, you are the city of God, and wonderful things are told about you.
  4. Egypt, Babylonia, Philistia, Phoenicia, and Ethiopia are some of those nations that know you, and their people all say, "I was born in Zion."
  5. God Most High will strengthen the city of Zion. Then everyone will say, "We were born here too."
  6. The LORD will make a list of his people, and all who were born here will be included.
  7. All who sing or dance will say, "I too am from Zion."

Psalms 87, a psalm of the sons of Korah, is a psalm about Jerusalem which is identified here and elsewhere in scripture as the "city of God." It says that "The Lord loves the gates of Zion (Jerusalem) more than all the dwellings of Jacob." (87:2) It will be known as the birthplace of nations and peoples of the world will seek to have their names in the Lord's record as "one (who) was born there." (87:6)

There is only one reason for Jerusalem to have this status, and that is because the Lord chose it as is also the case with Israel. Otherwise Jerusalem has little else to credit it as a city of status. God did not choose Jerusalem because of any merit it had but very likely because it had very little to its credit. All of its notoriety, therefore, is God's doing. This is true, also, of each of us. God doesn't chose us to belong to His family because of any merit we have but because He has chosen to do so and has made it possible through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The concept in this psalm of Jerusalem as the birthplace of nations and of peoples of the world is a spiritual concept and is a reference to Jerusalem as our spiritual birthplace. All of this points to a time when Christ will reign from His throne in this "city of God" which is spoken of in Isaiah 2:2-3.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 86

 Psalms 86(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A prayer by David.) Please listen, LORD, and answer my prayer! I am poor and helpless.
  2. Protect me and save me because you are my God. I am your faithful servant, and I trust you.
  3. Be kind to me! I pray to you all day.
  4. Make my heart glad! I serve you, and my prayer is sincere.
  5. You willingly forgive, and your love is always there for those who pray to you.
  6. Please listen, LORD! Answer my prayer for help.
  7. When I am in trouble, I pray, knowing you will listen.
  8. No other gods are like you; only you work miracles.
  9. You created each nation, and they will all bow down to worship and honor you.
  10. You perform great wonders because you alone are God.
  11. Teach me to follow you, and I will obey your truth. Always keep me faithful.
  12. With all my heart I thank you. I praise you, LORD God.
  13. Your love for me is so great that you protected me from death and the grave.
  14. Proud and violent enemies, who don't care about you, have ganged up to attack and kill me.
  15. But you, the Lord God, are kind and merciful. You don't easily get angry, and your love can always be trusted.
  16. I serve you, LORD, and I am the child of one of your servants. Look on me with kindness. Make me strong and save me.
  17. Show that you approve of me! Then my hateful enemies will feel like fools, because you have helped and comforted me.

In this section of the psalms of Asaph and Korah, a psalm of David was slipped in. Violent men were conspiring to take his life and David prayed for God's help. He did not mention until later in the psalm the nature of his need, but initially only mentions that he was "poor and needy." In the first five verses he asked God to listen and answer him, to protect him, to be gracious to him, and to bring joy to him. With each of these requests he gave a reason for God to grant them: David was poor and needy, he was faithful, he called on God all day long, and he had set his hope on the Lord.

Then he turned his attention to God's ability to answer his prayer and meet his need. There is no other god like Him who could do the works He does. God is great and able to perform wonders. In addition to the Lord's ability to meet his need, the Lord was "kind and . . . abundant in faithful love to all who call on You." (86:5) Unlike the gods worshipped by other nations, the Lord cared about helping him.

Next, David voiced the desire to become more dedicated to the Lord, asking Him to "Teach me Your way, Lord, and I will live by Your truth." He also asked that the Lord would "Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name." (86:11) Then he vowed to praise the Lord with all his heart and honor His name forever.

Finally, in verse 14, David mentions the source of his need: "arrogant people have attacked me; a gang of ruthless men seeks my life." Besides their disdain for David, they had no regard for the Lord. By delivering David from these enemies they would be put to shame and would know that "You, Lord, have helped and comforted me." (86:17)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 85

 Psalms 85(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by the people of Korah for the music leader.) Our LORD, you have blessed your land and made all go well for Jacob's descendants.
  2. You have forgiven the sin and taken away the guilt of your people.
  3. Your fierce anger is no longer aimed at us.
  4. Our LORD and our God, you save us! Please bring us back home and don't be angry.
  5. Will you always be angry with us and our families?
  6. Won't you give us fresh life and let your people be glad because of you?
  7. Show us your love and save us!
  8. I will listen to you, LORD God, because you promise peace to those who are faithful and no longer foolish.
  9. You are ready to rescue everyone who worships you, so that you will live with us in all of your glory.
  10. Love and loyalty will come together; goodness and peace will unite.
  11. Loyalty will sprout from the ground; justice will look down from the sky above.
  12. Our LORD, you will bless us; our land will produce wonderful crops.
  13. Justice will march in front, making a path for you to follow.

One of the hardest things we do is wait on the Lord. Doing so with patience is one of the greatest expressions and tests of our faith. The writer of Psalms 85 was experiencing such a period of waiting on the Lord. We are sustained through these periods by holding to God's works on our behalf in the past which is where this psalm begins. The psalmist recalls a past time when the Lord showed favor on His people and restored them. In so doing He took away the guilt of their sin and withdrew His anger from them.

In remembering this past experience of the Lord's forgiveness and mercy, the psalmist was given hope that God would again forgive and withdraw His anger. "Return to us," he says, "and abandon Your displeasure with us." (85:4) Evidently the repercussions of God's displeasure had gone on for quite some time and he asked the Lord, "Will You be angry with us forever?" (85:5)

Having made his plea for God's salvation, the psalmist vowed to listen to what His answer would be. And He anticipated that His answer would be the restoration of peace. In verse 8 the writer seems to be saying that if God declared "peace to His people," it would keep them from going "back to foolish ways." Implying also that if He did not they would give up on Him and return to those foolish ways. But he was confident that God's salvation was "very near" and when it came His glory would dwell in the land.

In conclusion, the psalmist expressed his faith that God would answer his prayer and that "Faithful love and truth will join together; righteousness and peace will embrace." (85:10) And when it did, truth and righteousness would spring forth and the people would again prosper. He was waiting on the Lord which doesn't mean that he was only doing what he was forced to do. If one waits on the Lord, they are doing so in faith, expecting God's favorable answer. The alternative is to turn away from the Lord and seek answers elsewhere, which is futility.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 84

 Psalms 84(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (For the music leader. A psalm for the people of Korah.) LORD God All-Powerful, your temple is so lovely!sermons
  2. Deep in my heart I long for your temple, and with all that I am I sing joyful songs to you.sermons
  3. LORD God All-Powerful, my King and my God, sparrows find a home near your altars; swallows build nests there to raise their young.sermons
  4. You bless everyone who lives in your house, and they sing your praises.sermons
  5. You bless all who depend on you for their strength and all who deeply desire to visit your temple.sermons
  6. When they reach Dry Valley, springs start flowing, and the autumn rain fills it with pools of water.sermons
  7. Your people grow stronger, and you, the God of gods, will be seen in Zion.sermons
  8. LORD God All-Powerful, the God of Jacob, please answer my prayer!sermons
  9. You are the shield that protects your people, and I am your chosen one. Won't you smile on me?sermons
  10. One day in your temple is better than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather serve in your house, than live in the homes of the wicked.sermons
  11. Our LORD and our God, you are like the sun and also like a shield. You treat us with kindness and with honor, never denying any good thing to those who live right.sermons
  12. LORD God All-Powerful, you bless everyone who trusts you.sermons

Psalms 84 is a pilgrimage song, meaning that it declares the blessedness of the one who in faith journeys to the temple to pray to the Lord. Though it speaks of a yearning to be in the Lord's dwelling place, the temple, it is not about a building but about being in the presence of the Lord.

As we read this psalm we should understand that in the Old Testament context, the believer went to the Lord through the temple priest who was the mediator between God and man. With the coming of Christ, He is now our mediator who dwells within the believer through His Holy Spirit. We can approach the Lord and be in His presence at anytime and anywhere. For the Christian, verse 1 can be read, "How lovely it is to be in Your presence, LORD of Hosts." Having said that, I recognize that it is special to be in the Lord's presence along with other believers as is our practice on a Sunday to gather with other believers for worship.

Not only does the psalmist long to be in the courts of the Lord, he says that even the sparrows and the swallows build their nests "near Your altars, Lord of Hosts." (84:3) The believer who longs for the Lord's presence and makes the Lord his strength, finds happiness. This happiness is described in two ways. The first compares it to the "Valley of Baca," a waterless place that became a "source of springwater." This pictures our lives as arid and dry apart from the Lord, but as a source of springwater when we spend time in the Lord's presence. The second description says that those who make the Lord their strength "go from strength to strength." The image that comes to my mind as I read this is of walking from stone to stone across a pool of water. Though our foot might slip and get wet, we don't have to wade the water, but can get back up on the stones and keep going. Though we may have times of weakness, that is not our continual state, for in the Lord we are going from strength to strength, growing continually stronger and not from weakness to weakness growing continually weaker.

The psalmist concludes that a day in the Lord's presence is better than a thousand days anywhere else. Why? "For the LORD God is a sun and shield. The LORD gives grace and glory; He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity." (84:11) Finally he says, "happy is the person who trusts in You!" This is to be contrasted with the one who dabbles with religion thinking the Lord might smile on them and make their lives better or the one who makes the Lord his good luck charm thinking it will keep the bad away. No, this speaks of one who trusts all aspects of their lives to the Lord. They trust that He will not only care for them and protect them, but that the life He gives them will be better than the one they might devise on their own.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 83

 Psalms 83(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A song and a psalm by Asaph.) Our God, don't just sit there, silently doing nothing!
  2. Your hateful enemies are turning against you and rebelling.
  3. They are sly, and they plot against those you treasure.
  4. They say, "Let's wipe out the nation of Israel and make sure that no one remembers its name!"
  5. All of them fully agree in their plans against you, and among them are
  6. Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites;
  7. Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia and Phoenicia.
  8. Even Assyria has joined forces with Moab and Ammon.
  9. Our Lord, punish all of them as you punished Midian. Destroy them, as you destroyed Sisera and Jabin at Kishon Creek
  10. near Endor, and let their bodies rot.
  11. Treat their leaders as you did Oreb and Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna.
  12. All of them said, "We'll take God's valuable land!"
  13. Our God, scatter them around like dust in a whirlwind.
  14. Just as flames destroy forests on the mountains,
  15. pursue and terrify them with storms of your own.
  16. Make them blush with shame, until they turn and worship you, our LORD.
  17. Let them be forever ashamed and confused. Let them die in disgrace.
  18. Make them realize that you are the LORD Most High, the only ruler of earth!

When Asaph addressed God through this psalm, ten nations had formed an alliance against Israel with the intent to "wipe them out as a nation so that Israel's name will no longer be remembered." (83:4) Assyria alone was capable of wiping out Israel, but combined with the other nine nations Israel was in an impossible situation. That is, impossible without the Lord's intervention.

But Asaph knew that with God's involvement this situation against which Israel was helpless to defend herself became one in which these enemies could be destroyed. He remembered what God did with Gideon against the Midianites and with Deborah and Barak against Sisera. There was precedent for God's intervention on Israel's behalf and it was time again for Him to come to her aid. He asked God to make these nations like tumbleweed and straw before the wind. As fire burns through a forest he wanted God to " pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with Your storm." (83:15) In the end he wanted God to put these nations to shame and to "let them perish in disgrace." (83:17)

When God had caused such a defeat of these mighty foes, they would know that God alone was "the Most High over all the earth." (83:18) In Asaph's mind, God's intervention against these nations would not only benefit Israel but would defend God's name, for these were also God's enemies. By devising "clever schemes" against God's people and attempting to wipe out God's "treasured ones," (83:3) they were conspiring against God.

God's help is still available for His people who reach out for His intervention against those who promote injustice. They, too, are God's enemies as well as enemies of God's people. He will come to the aid of His people.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 82

 Psalms 82(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by Asaph.) When all of the other gods have come together, the Lord God judges them and says:sermons
  2. "How long will you keep judging unfairly and favoring evil people?sermons
  3. Be fair to the poor and to orphans. Defend the helpless and everyone in need.sermons
  4. Rescue the weak and homeless from the powerful hands of heartless people.sermons
  5. "None of you know or understand a thing. You live in darkness, while the foundations of the earth tremble.sermons
  6. "I, the Most High God, say that all of you are gods and also my own children.sermons
  7. But you will die, just like everyone else, including powerful rulers."sermons
  8. Do something, God! Judge the nations of the earth; they belong to you.sermons

Asaph, in Psalms 82, calls for justice among Israel's officials who have been appointed as judges over the people. He frames it as if God were speaking to them, raising first the question, "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?" (82:2) The appointed role of the judges was to protect the innocent and indict the guilty. In particular to protect those who could not protect themselves such as the needy, the fatherless, the oppressed, and the destitute. They were to "save them from the hand of the wicked." (82:4)

But the judges Asaph addressed were judging unjustly and showing partiality to the wicked. God says of them, "They do not know or understand; they wander in darkness." (82:5) The result is that "All the foundations of the earth are shaken." (82:5) When the systems of justice break down, the very foundations of the earth are shaken.

These judges over Israel were referred to as "gods" and "sons of the Most High." They were God's appointed spokespersons, but they were failing to fulfill their appointments. Therefore, they would find that they are not so lofty after all and "will die like men and fall like any other ruler." (82:7) Asaph calls on God to "Rise up, God, judge the earth, for all the nations belong to You." (82:8) These judges who judge unjustly will find that they too will be judged.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 81

 Psalms 81(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By Asaph for the music leader.) Be happy and shout to God who makes us strong! Shout praises to the God of Jacob.
  2. Sing as you play tambourines and the lovely sounding stringed instruments.
  3. Sound the trumpets and start the New Moon Festival. We must also celebrate when the moon is full.
  4. This is the law in Israel, and it was given to us by the God of Jacob.
  5. The descendants of Joseph were told to obey it, when God led them out from the land of Egypt. In a language unknown to me, I heard someone say:
  6. "I lifted the burden from your shoulder and took the heavy basket from your hands.
  7. When you were in trouble, I rescued you, and from the thunderclouds, I answered your prayers. Later I tested you at Meribah Spring.
  8. "Listen, my people, while I, the Lord, correct you! Israel, if you would only pay attention to me!
  9. Don't worship foreign gods or bow down to gods you know nothing about.
  10. I am the LORD your God. I rescued you from Egypt. Just ask, and I will give you whatever you need.
  11. "But, my people, Israel, you refused to listen, and you would have nothing to do with me!
  12. So I let you be stubborn and keep on following your own advice.
  13. "My people, Israel, if only you would listen and do as I say!
  14. I, the LORD, would quickly defeat your enemies with my mighty power.
  15. Everyone who hates me would come crawling, and that would be the end of them.
  16. But I would feed you with the finest bread and with the best honey until you were full."

Asaph, in this psalm, calls the people to give praise to the Lord during the Feast of Tabernacles. He reminds Israel that it is a statute for Israel to "Blow the horn during the new moon and during the full moon, on the day of our feast." (81:3) God established this festival with Israel after He relieved her burden in Egypt.

Asaph then recalled God's words to them promising to fulfill their needs if they would only give Him allegiance. He was the one who brought them out of Egypt, not any foreign god, so they were not to bow down to any other god. But Israel did not listen and obey, so God "gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans." (81:12) This did not go well for Israel nor does it go well for us. But though God turned Israel over to following her own plans, He lamented, "If only My people would listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways." (81:13) If she would, God would "quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes." (81:14) Furthermore, "He would feed Israel with the best wheat. I would satisfy you with honey from the rock." (81:16)

Contrary to the thought of many, God delights in blessing His people, not punishing them. But we turn God away and then blame Him when He is not there when we get ourselves in trouble. But God does not force Himself upon us. We must give Him permission to help us. This is what our worship of Him does - give Him permission to bless us and help us when we are in trouble. When we do not worship Him or give Him any attention, we withhold permission for Him to operate in our lives.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 80

 Psalms 80(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by Asaph for the music leader. To the tune "Lilies of the Agreement.") Shepherd of Israel, you lead the descendants of Joseph, and you sit on your throne above the winged creatures. Listen to our prayer and let your light shinesermons
  2. for the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Save us by your power.sermons
  3. Our God, make us strong again! Smile on us and save us.sermons
  4. LORD God All-Powerful, how much longer will the prayers of your people make you angry?sermons
  5. You gave us tears for food, and you made us drink them by the bowlful.sermons
  6. Because of you, our enemies who live nearby laugh and joke about us.sermons
  7. But if you smile on us, we will be saved.sermons
  8. We were like a grapevine you brought out of Egypt. You chased other nations away and planted us here.sermons
  9. Then you cleared the ground, and we put our roots deep, spreading over the land.sermons
  10. Shade from this vine covered the mountains. Its branches climbed the mighty cedarssermons
  11. and stretched to the sea; its new growth reached to the river.sermons
  12. Our Lord, why have you torn down the wall from around the vineyard? You let everyone who walks by pick the grapes.sermons
  13. Now the vine is gobbled down by pigs from the forest and other wild animals.sermons
  14. God All-Powerful, please do something! Look down from heaven and see what's happening to this vine.sermons
  15. With your own hands you planted its roots, and you raised it as your very own.sermons
  16. Enemies chopped the vine down and set it on fire. Now show your anger and destroy them.sermons
  17. But help the one who sits at your right side, the one you raised to be your own.sermons
  18. Then we will never turn away. Put new life into us, and we will worship you.sermons
  19. LORD God All-Powerful, make us strong again! Smile on us and save us.sermons

Though presented in a different style, Psalms 80 is akin to Psalms 79 as Asaph appealed to God to save Israel from her enemies and take away the sorrow that had the people in perpetual tears. As in Psalms 79, Asaph acknowledges, or at least aludes to, Israel's sin as the cause of her calamity, though it is a more vague alusion in this psalm: "how long will You be angry with Your people's prayers?" he asks. (80:4) The only reason God would be angry with the prayers of His people is if they are not sincere and are wrongly motivated.

In the psalm Asaph reminds God of His relationship with Israel. She was the vine He uprooted from Egypt and for whom He "drove out the nations and planted it." (80:8) It took root and flourished, filling the land. But now God had "broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its fruit?" (80:12) Keeping with the imagery of the vineyard, Asaph refers to the vineyard walls being torn down to allow the "creatures of the field" to feed on the vine, which is Israel.

Then Asaph prays that God will return and will "Look down from heaven and see; take care of this vine." He pledges that if God will "Let Your hand be with the man at Your right hand," (80:17) - a possible reference to Benjamin, which means “son of the right hand.” - Israel "will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name." (80:18)

Asaph falls short of confessing the sins of Israel that had brought her to this place. Furthermore, he places a condition on her faithfulness to God - if He will let His hand be with Benjamin, then Israel will not turn away from Him. This prayer of Asaph's may be an example of why God was angry with the people's prayers. Though quite eloquent, it failed to address the heart of the issue. It is the typical turning to God in bad times while failing to acknowledge Him in the good times.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 79

 Psalms 79(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by Asaph.) Our God, foreign nations have taken your land, disgraced your temple, and left Jerusalem in ruins.sermons
  2. They have fed the bodies of your servants to flesh-eating birds; your loyal people are food for savage animals.sermons
  3. All Jerusalem is covered with their blood, and there is no one left to bury them.sermons
  4. Every nation around us sneers and makes fun.sermons
  5. Our LORD, will you keep on being angry? Will your angry feelings keep flaming up like fire?sermons
  6. Get angry with those nations that don't know you and won't worship you!sermons
  7. They have gobbled down Jacob's descendants and left the land in ruins.sermons
  8. Don't make us pay for the sins of our ancestors. Have pity and come quickly! We are completely helpless.sermons
  9. Our God, you keep us safe. Now help us! Rescue us. Forgive our sins and bring honor to yourself.sermons
  10. Why should nations ask us, "Where is your God?" Let us and the other nations see you take revenge for your servants who died a violent death.sermons
  11. Listen to the prisoners groan! Let your mighty power save all who are sentenced to die.sermons
  12. Each of those nations sneered at you, our Lord. Now let others sneer at them, seven times as much.sermons
  13. Then we, your people, will always thank you. We are like sheep with you as our shepherd, and all generations will hear us praise you.sermons

Asaph pleaded with God to deliver his people from enemies who have invaded the land. These enemies had desecrated the temple and "turned Jerusalem into ruins." (79:1) The Israelites had become "an object of reproach" to their neighbors, "a source of mockery and ridicule" to those around them. (79:4) They were asking, "Where is their God?" (79:10) God was included in their ridicule.

Asaph knew their plight was a result of their own sin so his appeal was to God's mercy and compassion and protection of His own name. But then, God's mercy is our only appeal at any time. We have nothing to bring to the bargaining table. To direct the attention from their sins, Asaph asks God to "Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don't acknowledge You, on the kingdoms that don't call on Your name." (79:6) What he does not mention is that though Israel acknowledged God, she had turned away from God to worship idols, crediting God's works to the idols.

Along with his appeal for deliverance, Asaph asked God to "Pay back sevenfold to our neighbors the reproach they have hurled at You, Lord." (79:12) In return, "Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will thank You forever; we will declare Your praise to generation after generation." (79:13) If this suffering will return the people to worshipping God, it will have served its purpose.

The psalm is commonly thought to be related to the invasion of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar leading to her Babylonian exile. If this is the case, the deliverance Asaph prayed for was not to come anytime soon. Israel's sin was too great and had gone on too long for this prayer to turn God from His action against Israel that easily. Though God would eventually punish the Babylonians for their part in destroying Israel, it would not be at this time. Their part as God's agents of punishment on Israel was not yet completed.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 78

 Psalms 78(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A special psalm by Asaph.) My friends, I beg you to listen as I teach.sermons
  2. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.sermons
  3. These are things we learned from our ancestors,sermons
  4. and we will tell them to the next generation. We won't keep secret the glorious deeds and the mighty miracles of the LORD.sermons
  5. God gave his Law to Jacob's descendants, the people of Israel. And he told our ancestors to teach their children,sermons
  6. so that each new generation would know his Law and tell it to the next.sermons
  7. Then they would trust God and obey his teachings, without forgetting anything God had done.sermons
  8. They would be different from their ancestors, who were stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful to God.sermons
  9. The warriors from Ephraim were armed with arrows, but they ran away when the battle began.sermons
  10. They broke their agreement with God, and they turned their backs on his teaching.sermons
  11. They forgot all he had done, even the mighty miraclessermons
  12. he did for their ancestors near Zoan in Egypt.sermons
  13. God made a path in the sea and piled up the water as he led them across.sermons
  14. He guided them during the day with a cloud, and each night he led them with a flaming fire.sermons
  15. God made water flow from rocks he split open in the desert, and his people drank freely, as though from a lake.sermons
  16. He made streams gush out like rivers from rocks.sermons
  17. But in the desert, the people of God Most High kept sinning and rebelling.sermons
  18. They stubbornly tested God and demanded from him what they wanted to eat.sermons
  19. They challenged God by saying, "Can God provide food out here in the desert?sermons
  20. It's true God struck the rock and water gushed out like a river, but can he give his people bread and meat?"sermons
  21. When the LORD heard this, he was angry and furious with Jacob's descendants, the people of Israel.sermons
  22. They had refused to trust him, and they had doubted his saving power.sermons
  23. But God gave a command to the clouds, and he opened the doors in the skies.sermons
  24. From heaven he sent grain that they called manna.sermons
  25. He gave them more than enough, and each one of them ate this special food.sermons
  26. God's mighty power brought a strong wind from the southeast,sermons
  27. and it brought birds that covered the ground, like sand on the beach.sermons
  28. Then God made the birds fall in the camp of his people near their tents.sermons
  29. God gave his people all they wanted, and each of them ate until they were full.sermons
  30. But before they had swallowed the last bite,sermons
  31. God became angry and killed the strongest and best from the families of Israel.sermons
  32. But the rest kept on sinning and would not trust God's miracles.sermons
  33. So he cut their lives short and made them terrified.sermons
  34. After he killed some of them, the others turned to him with all their hearts.sermons
  35. They remembered God Most High, the mighty rock that kept them safe.sermons
  36. But they tried to flatter God, and they told him lies;sermons
  37. they were unfaithful and broke their promises.sermons
  38. Yet God was kind. He kept forgiving their sins and didn't destroy them. He often became angry, but never lost his temper.sermons
  39. God remembered that they were made of flesh and were like a wind that blows once and then dies down.sermons
  40. While they were in the desert, they often rebelled and made God sad.sermons
  41. They kept testing him and caused terrible pain for the Holy One of Israel.sermons
  42. They forgot about his power and how he had rescued them from their enemies.sermons
  43. God showed them all kinds of wonderful miracles near Zoan in Egypt.sermons
  44. He turned the rivers of Egypt into blood, and no one could drink from the streams.sermons
  45. He sent swarms of flies to pester the Egyptians, and he sent frogs to cause them trouble.sermons
  46. God let worms and grasshoppers eat their crops.sermons
  47. He destroyed their grapevines and their fig trees with hail and floods.sermons
  48. Then he killed their cattle with hail and their other animals with lightning.sermons
  49. God was so angry and furious that he went into a rage and caused them great trouble by sending swarms of destroying angels.sermons
  50. God gave in to his anger and slaughtered them in a terrible way.sermons
  51. He killed the first-born son of each Egyptian family.sermons
  52. Then God led his people out of Egypt and guided them in the desert like a flock of sheep.sermons
  53. He led them safely along, and they were not afraid, but their enemies drowned in the sea.sermons
  54. God brought his people to the sacred mountain that he had taken by his own power.sermons
  55. He made nations run from the tribes of Israel, and he let the tribes take over their land.sermons
  56. But the people tested God Most High, and they refused to obey his laws.sermons
  57. They were as unfaithful as their ancestors, and they were as crooked as a twisted arrow.sermons
  58. God demanded all their love, but they made him angry by worshiping idols.sermons
  59. So God became furious and completely rejected the people of Israel.sermons
  60. Then he deserted his home at Shiloh, where he lived here on earth.sermons
  61. He let enemies capture the sacred chest and let them dishonor him.sermons
  62. God took out his anger on his chosen ones and let them be killed by enemy swords.sermons
  63. Fire destroyed the young men, and the young women were left with no one to marry.sermons
  64. Priests died violent deaths, but their widows were not allowed to mourn.sermons
  65. Finally the Lord woke up, and he shouted like a drunken soldier.sermons
  66. God scattered his enemies and made them ashamed forever.sermons
  67. Then the Lord decided not to make his home with Joseph's descendants in Ephraim.sermons
  68. Instead he chose the tribe of Judah, and he chose Mount Zion, the place he loves.sermons
  69. There he built his temple as lofty as the mountains and as solid as the earth that he had made to last forever.sermons
  70. The Lord God chose David to be his servant and took him from tending sheepsermons
  71. and from caring for lambs. Then God made him the leader of Israel, his own nation.sermons
  72. David treated the people fairly and guided them with wisdom.sermons

Another psalm of Asaph. This lengthy psalm has the purpose of telling "a future generation the praises of the LORD, His might, and the wonderful works He has performed." (78:4) To do that, it must also point out the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and God's patience with them and also His anger with them. As with most Old Testament accounts that review God's mighty works on Israel's behalf, it recounts the events of God leading her out of Egypt into the land of promise.

At Mount Sinai God "established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel." (78:5) This established the guidelines of Israel's relationship with God for both present and future generations. They were commanded to teach them to their children so future generations would also know and teach to their children. In doing so all generations "might put their confidence in God and not forget God's works, but keep His commandments." (78:7)

Asaph hoped that by teaching their generation and beyond "they would not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not loyal and whose spirit was not faithful to God." (78:8) He wanted them not only to know God's instructions to them but to learn from the mistakes of their ancesters. Though God had "split the sea" bringing them across the Red Sea on dry land, and had "led them with a cloud by day and with a fiery light throughout the night," and had "split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as abundant as the depths," they "continued to sin against Him, rebelling in the desert against the Most High." (78:13, 14, 15, 17) They "deliberately tested God," Asaph said, by "demanding the food they craved." (78:18) They said, "He struck the rock and water gushed out; torrents overflowed. But can He also provide bread or furnish meat for His people?" (78:20) What insolence! At that point God lost patience with them and He rained down fire upon them. But then He provided the food they craved.

Then, "Despite all this, they kept sinning and did not believe His wonderful works." (78:32) So God, "made their days end in futility, their years in sudden disaster." (78:33) When God punished them they repented and "remembered that God was their rock," but even in this, "their hearts were insincere toward Him, and they were unfaithful to His covenant." (78:37) Concerning the people's unfaithfulness Asaph comments, "Yet He was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh, a wind that passes and does not return." (78:38-39) What a wonderful statement of God's mercy - "He remembered that they were only flesh." So God extended His mercy rather than His wrath.

Once they were established in the Promised Land they "rebelliously tested the Most High God, for they did not keep His decrees." Nothing changed regardless of what God did for them. Not only did they fail to keep God's instructions to them, they turned to worship other gods. Eventually God "completely rejected Israel." (78:59) In doing so, He "surrendered His people to the sword," turning them over to their enemies.

Eventually, though, "the Lord awoke as if from sleep." After taking His hand away from Israel for a period of time and seemingly "slept," God "awoke" and again favored Israel. But things changed. "He rejected the tent of Joseph," the tribe that had been in leadership, and "He chose instead the tribe of Judah." (78:67, 68) From the tribe of Judah God chose David to be Israel's leader and within the territory of Judah He chose Mount Zion, the location of Jerusalem, to establish His sanctuary. Under this arrangement Israel enjoyed a number of years of prosperity and faithfulness to God.

And so the moral of Asaph's psalm is to pay attention to God's instructions and be faithful to Him and He will bless you. Otherwise it will not go well for you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 77

 Psalms 77(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by Asaph for Jeduthun, the music leader.) I pray to you, Lord God, and I beg you to listen.sermons
  2. In days filled with trouble, I search for you. And at night I tirelessly lift my hands in prayer, refusing comfort.sermons
  3. When I think of you, I feel restless and weak.sermons
  4. Because of you, Lord God, I can't sleep. I am restless and can't even talk.sermons
  5. I think of times gone by, of those years long ago.sermons
  6. Each night my mind is flooded with questions:sermons
  7. "Have you rejected me forever? Won't you be kind again?sermons
  8. Is this the end of your love and your promises?sermons
  9. Have you forgotten how to have pity? Do you refuse to show mercy because of your anger?"sermons
  10. Then I said, "God Most High, what hurts me most is that you no longer help us with your mighty arm."sermons
  11. Our LORD, I will remember the things you have done, your miracles of long ago.sermons
  12. I will think about each one of your mighty deeds.sermons
  13. Everything you do is right, and no other god compares with you.sermons
  14. You alone work miracles, and you have let nations see your mighty power.sermons
  15. With your own arm you rescued your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.sermons
  16. The ocean looked at you, God, and it trembled deep down with fear.sermons
  17. Water flowed from the clouds. Thunder was heard above as your arrows of lightning flashed about.sermons
  18. Your thunder roared like chariot wheels. The world was made bright by lightning, and all the earth trembled.sermons
  19. You walked through the water of the mighty sea, but your footprints were never seen.sermons
  20. You guided your people like a flock of sheep, and you chose Moses and Aaron to be their leaders.sermons

The psalmist here was going through a "dark night of the soul" in which he lay awake at night pondering some trouble that had overtaken him and life in general. He attributed his troubling thoughts to God who he thought had kept him awake to consider these things: "You have kept me from closing my eyes." (77:4) As he lay awake, he said, "I think of God; I groan; I meditate; my spirit becomes weak." (77:3) And yet, "I refused to be comforted." (77:2) As he thought of how life used to be, questions began to assail him: Had he been rejected by the Lord forever? Had God ceased loving him? Had God's promises to His people come to an end? Had God forgotten to be gracious? Had God's anger overridden His compassion?

Any who seriously seek after God will have times when they encounter these "dark nights of the soul." They can be pivotal points for us, for how we deal with them will determine whether we turn away from God or go deeper with Him. The motivation that drives our outcome will likely pivot around two questions: "What will I turn to if not to God?" and "What am I turning loose of if I turn from God?" Though these questions are not voiced in the psalm, they seem to be behind the psalmist's considerations. After pondering his situation and reflecting on past life and refusing to be comforted, a turning point comes in verse 10 when he decided to remember the Lord's works. It was in these memories that he considered the God he did not want to turn away from and God's works of wonders he did not want to cut himself off from.

Though verse 10 is a bit obscure, we recognize that he has a new thought, and the new thought is that "I will remember the LORD's works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions. " (77:11-12) And so he reflected on God's works of wonder in leading His people out of Egypt, and central in these thoughts was the crossing of the Red Sea. It was in these thoughts that he found comfort. He needed the night of dispair to become despondent enough to turn his thoughts from himself and to God. It brings to mind a well-known saying: "Occupation with self brings distress; Occupation with others brings discouragement; Occupation with Christ brings delight." Oswald Chambers has said it slightly differently: " To be occupied with self, of what can and cannot be done, brings distress and enslaves the soul. To be occupied with Christ, His glory and grace, brings freedom and conformity to His image."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 76

 Psalms 76(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A song and a psalm for the music leader. Use stringed instruments.) You, our God, are famous in Judah and honored in Israel.sermons
  2. Your home is on Mount Zion in the city of peace.sermons
  3. There you destroyed fiery arrows, shields, swords, and all the other weapons.sermons
  4. You are more glorious than the eternal mountains.sermons
  5. Brave warriors were robbed of what they had taken, and now they lie dead, unable to lift an arm.sermons
  6. God of Jacob, when you roar, enemy chariots and horses drop dead in their tracks.sermons
  7. Our God, you are fearsome, and no one can oppose you when you are angry.sermons
  8. From heaven you announced your decisions as judge! And all who live on this earth were terrified and silentsermons
  9. when you took over as judge, ready to rescue everyone in need.sermons
  10. Even the most angry people will praise you when you are furious.sermons
  11. Everyone, make your promises to the LORD your God and do what you promise. The LORD is fearsome, and all of his servants should bring him gifts.sermons
  12. God destroys the courage of rulers and kings and makes cowards of them.sermons

Here is another psalm from Asaph praising God for destroying Judah's enemy without Judah lifting a finger to defend herself. The occasion for this psalm is commonly thought to be when God destroyed 185,000 of Sennacherib's Assyrian army while in their camp and before attacking Judah. Isaiah 37:33 gives this account: "'Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or build up an assault ramp against it." Everyone awoke that day and the 185,000 soldiers lay dead. Sennacherib packed up and went home.

Asaph's response was to proclaim that God was known in Judah, and there, also, in Zion was His dwelling place. There was no question but that God had intervened. No doubt some looked for other explanations because that is what we are so inclined to do - find any explanation other than God. But Asaph led the people in crediting God with the destruction of their enemy. "He shatters the bow's flaming arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war," Asaph said. "The brave-hearted have been plundered; they have slipped into their final sleep. None of the warriors was able to lift a hand." (76:3, 5)

Therefore, the Lord is "to be feared. When You are angry, who can stand before You?" (76:7) When God has so obviously intervened, "The earth feared and grew quiet when God rose up to judge and to save all the lowly of the earth." (76:8-9)

In response to God's might acts, we should "Make and keep your vows to the LORD your God; let all who are around Him bring tribute to the awe-inspiring One." (76:11)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 75

 Psalms 75(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm and a song by Asaph for the music leader. To the tune "Don't Destroy.") Our God, we thank you for being so near to us! Everyone celebrates your wonderful deeds.
  2. You have set a time to judge with fairness.
  3. The earth trembles, and its people shake; you alone keep its foundations firm.
  4. You tell every bragger, "Stop bragging!" And to the wicked you say, "Don't boast of your power!
  5. Stop bragging! Quit telling me how great you are."
  6. Our LORD and our God, victory doesn't come from the east or the west or from the desert.
  7. You are the one who judges. You can take away power and give it to others.
  8. You hold in your hand a cup filled with wine, strong and foaming. You will pour out some for every sinful person on this earth, and they will have to drink until it is gone.
  9. But I will always tell about you, the God of Jacob, and I will sing your praise.
  10. Our Lord, you will destroy the power of evil people, but you will give strength to those who are good.

Life cannot be seen in its proper perspective without viewing it from the perspective of eternity. After all, this is the perspective with which it is intended by the One who made time. God, the Creator, controls history and nothing happens that He has not allowed as, in His great wisdom, He permits mankind the freedom to choose. But as the psalmist points out in this psalm, there is a time in which there is an accounting for those choices.

Asaph, the psalmist, warns the wicked that God will choose a time in which He will judge, and His judgment will be fair. Therefore, the wicked should not boast of his strength or lift up his horn in arrogance as if he is in control. For God, and not he, is the judge, and when He judges it will be apparent who is in control. For it is God who "brings down one and exalts another," and any power the wicked possesses has been granted by God whether he acknowledges Him or not.

Any who reject the existence of God are like the ostrich that hides its head in the sand. If the ostrich can't see it, to him it doesn't exist. So it is with the atheist. He thinks that if he doesn't acknowledge the existence of God, God doesn't exist. But a time will come when the atheist, or anyone else, cannot ignore God's existence, "For there is a cup in the LORD's hand, full of wine blended with spices, and He pours from it. All the wicked of the earth will drink, draining it to the dregs." (75:8)

But as for the psalmist, he says, "I will sing praise to the God of Jacob." It is the God of Jacob who will, "cut off all the horns of the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up." (75:10)