Scarlet Thread of Redemption through the Old and New Testaments. It will be great review of the last two years of the Bible Book Club.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Scarlet Thread of Redemption through the Old and New Testaments. It will be great review of the last two years of the Bible Book Club.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
LINKS: Psalm 148, Psalm 149, Psalm 150
We finish reading the Old Testament today and these three psalms are the perfect way to do it!
The book of Psalms ends with praise and so does our reading of the Old Testament. If we think through all we have read and meditated on, we will praise God. We won't be able to keep it in!
These last three psalms all praise the LORD, but they each approach praise from a slightly different angle. We can learn from them.
In Psalm 148 all creation sings a hymn of praise to God, the Creator. There is a kind of counter movement of praise in the psalm that provides balance and harmony. In the beginning of the psalm, praise begins in heaven with the angels and works its way down through the created order in the heavens (verses 1-6). In verse 7, praise from earth begins with the sea monsters and ocean depths and works its way up through creation from the elements of weather, to mountains and hills, to trees, to animals and birds - ending with people who live between heaven and earth . The psalm tells all people to praise the LORD: kings, princes, judges, young men, maidens, old, young... Why? Because HIS NAME is supreme. He rules all that is. The last verse singles out one special group to praise God: His people, the godly ones, those who are called by His Name (v 14). He is near to us and has made us strong. We are looking ahead to the New Testament and are in the Advent season as I write this. It seems to me that this psalm looks forward to Jesus, God with us. God came in the flesh to be near us, to make us strong through His death and resurrection. That is why we, His children, have special reason to praise Him!
So Psalm 149 focuses on the praise of God's people. We praise Him with songs and musical instruments and with dancing. God has saved those who are humble! He takes pleasure in us! God's people are to adore God with swords in hands, prepared for battle. I love this image! We are to praise God before we see all made right. We are to be alert and ready for His call to serve Him. Someday all will be made right. Those who raise themselves up in pride against Almighty God will be judged.
The last psalm, Psalm 150, is the final culmination of praise - a doxology. God gives us breath to praise Him. There is nothing quiet and still about praise here! Listen to the noise! Imagine the instruments and singing and dancing.
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! "
APPLICATION AND PRAYER
I think the application is obvious! Take time to praise the LORD. Think about what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. He is Creator and Sustainer. He is LORD of past, present, and future, the great I AM. He is LORD of heaven and earth. He is LORD of His people and loves us and provides for us and draws near us! He is GOD WITH US!
Monday, December 14, 2009
The last five psalms all begin and end with halelu-jah, which means “Praise the Lord.” No puzzling questions are asked here, no doubts expressed, no fears or concerns are voiced. Only songs of praise remain – a fitting conclusion to the thoughts and focus of the psalms. There are struggles in life. We’ve seen how David and the other psalmists struggled and questioned in the midst of their trust. But turning to God as the one with the answers will result in praise. If we belong to the God who created and sustains the universe and who LOVES us – if we have the foundation of faith and trust in Him – then we will praise Him. Praise is the fruit of trust.
LINK: Psalm 146
Often when I read the psalms I wish I knew Hebrew! Poetry is the highest expression of any language and relies on an intimate knowledge of it. Every once in awhile, I catch a glimpse of what I’m missing and I long to catch the puns and the language play. There’s evidently a pun in this psalm.
Verses 3-4 say this:
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
The point here is that we are to trust God, not in powerful people or human government. That phrase “son of man” is literally “son of Adam.” Adam means “of the ground, of the earth.” So the “son of the earth” will return to the earth and when he does all his plans will end. That puts life into perspective, doesn’t it?
Contrast that with what the psalm says about the LORD:
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
God is the Creator of all that exists. He sustains the universe, too. He is the true ruler. Ponder that last phrase - who keeps faith forever. God is not made from earth. He keeps His commitments forever.
It doesn’t stop there. The psalm gives specific examples of God’s love and concern.. Read them. Look at how He intervenes in our lives.
How can we not praise Him?
Praise the Lord!
LINK: Psalm 147
This psalm begins by saying that it is good and fitting to praise our God, and that it also gives pleasure! I hope that you are, as I am, finding that to be true.
What hits me as I read this psalm is the series of contrasts. The poem alternates between speaking of God’s intimate care of His people and the display of God’s glory and power in nature.
In verses 2- 6 we see God’s concern for the brokenhearted and humble, those who know that they have nothing to bring to the LORD. Sandwiched between the expressions of God’s concern we are told that God determines the number of stars and names each of them! That’s an illustration of his power and understanding.
The next section, which begins by mentioning singing to the Lord, speaks once again of God’s power, this time showing His care for the created world. He gives rain to the earth; clouds in the sky; grass for the hills; food for even that lowly bird, the raven. Not one of those parts of creation does anything to deserve God’s care. And once again the text turns to what this means for us as His people.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Read that! He delights in those who fear Him – who know His awesome power and wisdom. He delights in those who hope in His faithful love. God doesn’t delight in us because we do things right or well. He doesn’t delight in our strengths. He delights in us when we turn to Him in trust and hope and obedience.
Look at the figurative language and images in the last section (vv 12-20)! God commands the weather. He scatters ice like crumbs, melts the snow and ice to give us water, sends the wind. That same powerful, commanding, caring God is in charge of human events. He is in charge of the nations. More than that, God cares about His people. He provided for the Israelites and He will provide for us. He gives us peace in the midst of storms.
Look at how the psalm ends:
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
We can praise Him because we know how He wants us to live! We have His Word.
Read these psalms and meditate on them. Praise the LORD!
We praise you, O LORD, for your power and for your love and faithfulness. Open our eyes so that we can see you. We praise you and long to delight you. We hope in you, the One who made all that is and who continues to care for it. How can it be that the One who created and sustains also faithfully loves me? Praise the LORD!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
LINK: Psalm 145
David speaks of singing a "new song" in praise to God in the previous psalm (144:9). Perhaps this is it! Certainly, this last psalm of David is a personal song of love and trust and praise to God. In Hebrew this is an alphabetical, or acrostic psalm, with consecutive letters of the alphabet beginning each couplet. It's also the only psalm titled so emphatically: "A Song of Praise of David."
David praises God in detail in this psalm. No brief words of vague praise for him! Let's focus on three observations I've made as I've reflected on this psalm.
- David praises God for who God is - His character.
- David praises God for what God has done.
- David actively uses his mind and his voice to praise God for who He is and what He does.
He is great, so great that we can't figure Him out. He is abundantly good, which is different from being nice. God is righteous, and gracious, and merciful. He is slow to anger and abounds in faithful love. He is the powerful ruler of a kingdom that will never end. God is kind. He is faithful.
What does God do?
God has done works which display His power and goodness and faithful love. He lifts up those who are falling down and weak. He raises up those who are bowed down and humble. He gives food and satisfies all that lives. This earth was made so that it can support life! We have air to breath and it produces food that tastes good. God's provision is great! The LORD is also near to all who call upon Him. He hears their cry and saves them. He preserves (saves) those who love Him. God does works for many, but He also is generous to individuals.
David says over and over again that he will speak of God's mighty works and who He is. His mouth will praise God. He meditates on the LORD's mighty acts and commends them to those around him, especially those in future generations. David is active in praise: extolling, blessing, declaring, meditating.
In 1670, a man named Victorinus Bythner said, "The ancient Hebrews declare him happy whoever, in after times, utters this psalm thrice each day with the mouth, heart, and tongue."
I believe it!
We are in the Advent season as I write this. This should be a blessed and joyous season - a time when we meditate and ponder all the works of God. If ever there was a time to praise Him for who He is and what He has done, this is it! But often, we get busy in all the preparations - in the busy-ness of the season. Our tempers get short and we find ourselves tired and drained and sometimes lonely. We focus on ourselves and our circumstances.
I challenge you to read this psalm out loud as praise to the LORD three times each day for the rest of the Advent season. Do it with your family. Recount out loud what God has done for us individually and what He has done for all the earth. Surely we should be overflowing with praise right now - the promised KING is about to be born. Redemption is on its way! God intervenes in history to rescue us! Bless God out loud with each other for who He is. Commend Him. Declare His goodness and faithfulness and mercy. We take Him so for granted.
The point of praising God is that God is worthy to be praised and therefore should be. But I think there's a side benefit. Praise changes us.
So praise Him.
Read Psalm 145 out loud in praise to the LORD. Then praise Him for specific ways He's worked in your life.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
LINK: Zechariah 12-13
The phrase "In that day" is used several times in this chapter and refers to the "day of the Lord," the day of wrath and judgment that the prophets have been telling about. The Lord begins by identifying Himself as the creator of heaven and earth and the one who gives life to man. Jerusalem will be attacked by Gentiles. The city is like a cup that the enemies drink from. But it makes them drunk and sick. Jerusalem is also like a stone, immovable, and it will eventually destroy the invading enemies. The Lord will defend and save the people then destroy their enemies. Then the people will recognize Jesus for who he is. They will see him as the Messiah whom their fathers had pierced (at the crucifixion), and they will weep bitterly in repentance. They will mourn individually as well as corporately.
When the people repent and mourn for their sin, then the Lord will cleanse them. Their hearts will be purified. The land will be cleansed of idolatry. False prophets will be destroyed. They will disguise themselves to try to save themselves.
The true Shepherd will arrive. He will be struck, and the sheep will scatter. This refers to the crucifixion of Jesus when the disciples scattered. Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 on his way to the Garden of Gethsemane, "I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered."
Then God will weed out all but one-third of Israel. This will be the remnant that will be refined and saved. They will finally, truly belong to God.
Sometimes God has to refine us with fire. Are you going through difficulty that God wants to use to refine you? Though the fire is painful, the refined product is worth it! Bring any sin before God and allow Him to cleanse you. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Psalm 32 is a great one to read and meditate on for this.
Jesus, you are the good shepherd who truly cares for the sheep. Please lead us in your ways and teach us to follow you in all that we do. We bring our sins before you and ask for your cleansing. Make us pure and use us for your work. We trust in you and will rejoice in you! Amen.
Monday, December 7, 2009
LINK: Zechariah 10-11
Once again, God compares His people to sheep lacking a shepherd, but He will turn them into war horses (vs 3). The cornerstone and tent peg in verse four both refer to Messiah. Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation. The tent peg is one who will take the burdens of others. They will be mighty in battle and be strengthened by the Lord. God will gather the people and bring them back. He will strengthen them, and they will walk in His ways.
This chapter explains Israel's rejection of Messiah and acceptance of Antichrist. The flock is doomed to destruction, and their own shepherds have no pity on them. The two staffs of the shepherd are "favor" and "union," and he used them to guide the flock. Eventually, God's patience ran out, and he broke the staffs, representing the breaking of the covenant. The people rejected the ministry of the shepherd. Zechariah was apparently acting all this out as a representation of the coming Messiah. The shepherd was purchased for 30 shekels of silver which were thrown to the potter down in the temple. Matthew will quote this in reference to Judas selling Jesus for 30 shekels of silver then throwing the coins down in the temple. Then that money was used to purchase a potter's field.
In the final three verses of the chapter, Zechariah represents a foolish shepherd. "Foolish" doesn't mean silly or ignorant, rather, it means "morally deficient, corrupt." This so-called shepherd will not care for the flock, but will devour and destroy them. This shepherd will be the tool of Satan. But in the end, God will break his power (represented by the right arm) and will confuse his mind (represented by the right eye).
Keep Reading . . .
Sunday, December 6, 2009
LINK: Psalm 144
A transitional psalm, Psalm 144 links the preceding psalms which plead for help with the psalms of praise that follow it!
This psalm is reminiscent of Psalm 18, which David wrote when fleeing from Saul. Perhaps David is remembering and reiterating what he has learned in life.
David was a warrior king. God chose him to be king and then gave him a task. God was intimately concerned with David. This psalm recognizes that what God calls us to do, He also equips us for. That doesn' t mean that there will be no problems! Just look at David's life. But God gave him what he needed to be king and to lead Israel into war. God protected David so that David could fulfill God's plan. In the first two verses, David compares God to a rock, a trainer, a faithful friend, a fortress, a tower of safety, a deliverer, a shield, a refuge, a subduer.
That's how this psalm opens - David ponders what God is and provides. And then he is filled with wonder!
O Lord,what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
Look at the figurative language there! Man is like a breath or vapor. His days are like a shadow.
The images used about God are strong and sturdy and permanent. The images used of man are without substance and short-lived. No wonder David is filled with wonder!
Why does God care about us? It is truly amazing that He does. He is intimately concerned with those who are His.
Because He does care, we can talk to Him. We can ask for His help and blessing, which is what David does in the rest of this psalm. The psalm makes it clear that God rescues us and blesses us so that we can sing His praises.
Do you belong to God? Has God called you to be His? If so, know that He is concerned about you - so concerned that He will equip you with what you need to serve Him.
Sing that new song along with David!
What responsibilites has God given you with His people? Read through this psalm again in that light and consider how David prays. What can you learn?
We praise you, our God, for giving us all we need for life and godliness. Thank you for your faithfulness to us, your care of us. How can it be that you think of us and and are concerned about us? Give us a new song to you when we think of that! Help us to turn to you for all we need. Prosper your church, and bless us with spiritual fruit.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
LINK: Zechariah 1-2
Zechariah joined Haggai in Jerusalem two months into Haggai's four-month ministry there. So, for at least two months, they were together there, urging the people to finish the temple. Zechariah had a series of eight night visions from God, recorded in the first six chapters.
Zechariah has more prophecies about the coming Messiah than any other prophet except Isaiah. So, although it begins with a call to repentance, there is a great deal of hope and consolation in this book.
First Vision - Horses and Riders (Zech 1:7-17)
These horsemen were God's angelic army that patrols the earth and carries out God's orders. God also brought comfort to the people saying He would return to Jerusalem with compassion and the temple will be built. He would also punish the nations who tried to annihilate Israel.
Second Vision - Four Horns and Four Craftsmen (Zech 1:18-21)
The horn represents the power of a ruler or a nation. In this case the four horns are the enemies that have tried to destroy the Jews. The craftsmen are nations that God will use to defeat these enemies of the Jews
Third Vision - The Surveyor (Zech 2)
In this vision, God assured the people that He had a plan for their future. He would protect them and destroy their enemies. One day the city would burst at its seams with people and livestock. Ultimately, Jesus Himself will dwell in the midst of the people, and everyone will know that God has sent Him.
These chapters remind us once again that God is sovereign over all the nations. He is paying attention to what they do, especially to how they treat Israel, and will judge them. Also, one day there will be a glorious restoration of Jerusalem and Israel. The Messiah will come to cleanse the Jews. Jesus will one day sit on the throne in Jerusalem and rule as the Prince of Peace. Imagine the day when Jesus reigns in glory and there is truly peace in Jerusalem!
Lord, you are sovereign over all nations, all rulers, all peoples on this earth. Nothing goes unnoticed from your eyes. Thank you for providing cleansing through Jesus. We long for the day when Jesus will return. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Haggai was the first prophet sent from God after the Babylonian exile. His place in history is the same time period as Zechariah, Malachi, Nehemiah and Esther. But this little book covers only a space of four months. The messages are short and to the point. I like this guy! :)
Haggai's first message was given on August 29, 520 B.C. during the reign of Darius I. God sent Haggai to Zerubbabel, who had been appointed governor of the province of Judah in the Persian Empire, and to Joshua, the high priest. At this time, many Jews had returned from Babylon to Israel, they had resumed celebrating the feasts, and had laid the foundation for the new temple. But work on the temple had stopped because of opposition from hostile neighbors and because of apathy on the part of the Jews. God sent Haggai with a message to rebuke the people for their indifference about the temple and to get them working on building it again.
The people had built their own houses and had them nicely finished, but they had not finished God's house. God let them know that He was withholding blessing from them as long as they weren't working in completing the temple.
The people listened! They obeyed! And they showed reverence for the Lord! God stirred in the hearts of Zerubbabel, Joshua, and all the remnant who were there, so that they came together to work on the temple.
As they rebuilt, there were some over the age of 75 who remembered the previous temple and all its glory. Solomon's temple was larger and more beautiful, with much more gold and elaborate craftsmanship in it. They were disappointed in the smaller, plainer version. But God encouraged them all to continue working. God Himself would be present with them, and He owned all the silver and gold in the world. One day, God promised, there would be an even more glorious temple than Solomon's.
Then God addressed two questions the people had. (1) When something holy touches something unholy, does it make the unholy item become holy? The answer is "No." And (2) When an unclean person touches anything holy, does it make the holy item unclean? The answer is "Yes." Cleanness cannot be transferred, but defilement can.
The final message God sent through Haggai was that one day He will "shake the heavens and the earth." God will overthrow all earthly rule and all earthly armies. But He honored Zerubbabel as one He had chosen to rule at that time in history.
"Consider your ways! Go . . . that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD. (1:7-8)
What is clean cannot transfer its cleanness that that which is unclean, but what is unclean contaminates that which is clean. (2:12-13)
Let's consider our own ways. Consider your way of life. Is God pleased with it? Does your life glorify Him? Are you allowing the world to contaminate you? You can not impart your sanctification to those in the world by being a part of the world. It will only make you unclean instead.
Lord, make us holy, set apart for your service. Help us to examine our lives in light of your word and what you expect of us. Help us to throw off those things that distract us from serving you whole-heartedly. Teach us to keep ourselves unstained by the world so we can be a light to the world. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
When our hearts are heavy and we are depressed and feeling hopeless, this psalm of David shows us what to do.
The psalm is a prayer to God. David begins by asking God to hear his prayer and he appeals to God’s faithfulness and righteousness, not to his own neediness. That doesn’t mean David isn’t (or that we aren’t) needy, but that God’s response to us flows from who He is, not from how much we need Him.
Look at the David’s description of his circumstances:
- He is acutely aware of his own unrighteousness, of all people’s unrighteousness and sin (2).
- He is pursued by an enemy (3).
- His life is crushed by that enemy (3).
- He sits in darkness, put there by the enemy (3).
- He feels hopeless (4)
- He feels fearful (4).
- His depression is getting deeper; he feels like he is dying (7).
- He doesn’t feel like he can hang on much longer (7).
Have you been there? I have. Usually my enemies are not other people. In fact, no matter who the enemy is, we have one chief enemy, Satan. Satan loves to keep me in a place without hope, looking at my circumstances.
What does David do when he is in that pit of depression and hopelessness?
- He cries to God; he prays (1).
- He meditates on what God has done in the past (5).
- He ponders God’s works (5).
- He expresses his longing for God, his need of God (like dry soil that needs rain) (5).
So the first thing to do when I am in that pit of fear and hopelessness is to turn my thoughts to God and pray to Him. I then discipline my mind to remember what He has done for me in the past, what He has done for His people in the past. I look around me at the world God has made. I look up at the stars that He created, at the birds, at the colors. I listen to music and thank God for harmony. I think about food and how wonderful it tastes – so much variety! In other words, I take the focus off me and my circumstances and try instead to focus on all God has given. That helps give some perspective.
But David doesn’t stop there. That’s not all we do to get out of that pit.
David asks God to show him His steadfast love in the morning (8). I love that. I love morning. I love meeting God then. David declares his trust in God (8,10). He tells God that he wants to obey Him. He asks Him to show him the way he should go, and asks God to teach him to do His will (8, 10).
We are here to do God’s will, not our own. If we ask for God’s help and guidance, but are unwilling to please him, to walk in the way He wants us to walk, then we are being self-centered. So it’s important to ask Him to remake our priorities.
I love hymns. There is a simple hymn by Benjamin Marshall Ramsey that I first sang in high school that speaks to this. If you want to listen to the tune, here is the link.
Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way.
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way.
When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy way;
When storms o'erspread the skies, teach me Thy way.
Shine through the cloud and rain, through sorrow, toil, and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy way.
Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way.
Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way.
Until the race is run, until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won, teach me Thy way!
Hebrews 6 says that our hope, a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,” is based on who God is. God doesn’t change. God is righteous and therefore doesn’t lie. He is faithful and keeps His promises. We see so much more than David did. We see how God kept His word to all those saints in the Old Testament. He came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to rescue us from sin. I love that image of hope as an anchor. Hope in God gives us stability in the storms of life.
Psalm 143 ends in hope. God will destroy his servant’s enemies, even that great enemy, Satan (11). Just as He preserves our lives because of who He is, so God will lift up our souls from trouble. He does this for His own name’s sake (10). It is who He is.
If you are in a dark place right now, cry to the Lord just the way David did in this psalm.
Do you thirst for the LORD as parched soil thirsts for the rain? Do you want to walk in the LORD’s way , to do His will – or do you long for your own way?
When we are in that dark and scary place, without hope, help us to turn to you, LORD. You make yourself plain to us if we will only open our eyes and hearts. We praise you for your righteousness and faithfulness – that they anchor those who trust in you in hope. Show us the way to walk; teach us to do your will – for the sake of your name.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
LINK: Ezekiel 43
Ezekiel had seen the glory of the Lord depart from the temple at the east gate (Ezek 1:18-19). Now, his guide took him to the east gate where he saw the glory of the Lord come from the east and enter the temple through the east gate. God's glory, once again, filled the house of the Lord. He claimed His place on the throne, and told Ezekiel that He would dwell there and rule forever.
Then the altar was measured and the procedure for consecrating it was given to Ezekiel. Consecration was the symbolic removal of sin. Then the priests would once again be able to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings that would be accepted by God. You might remember from our study of Leviticus that the burnt offering represented dedicating oneself to God. It's symbolic of giving all on the altar. The peace offering is also called the fellowship offering. It is an expression of worship and represents the relationship one has with the Lord.
Jesus's death on the cross was the ultimate fulfillment of all the sacrifices described in Leviticus. Both of these offerings - burnt and peace - are ones that believers can give today. We don't use an altar and slaughter animals, but we offer our lives to the Lord as our burnt offering. And we offer praise and walk in fellowship with Him as our peace/fellowship offering.
Offer yourself to the Lord today for His service. Spend some time in fellowship with Him.
Lord, we thank You for being the sacrifice that atones for our sin. I give my life to You to love and serve You will all my heart, soul, and strength. Thank You for bringing me into fellowship with You forever. Amen.
Monday, November 23, 2009
LINK: Ezekiel 41 and 42
This is a continuation of chapter 40, where Ezekiel watches the measuring of various sections of the temple. At the end of chapter 42, the measuring tool is changed to a reed and the overall measurements of the temple are given. Five hundred reeds is about one mile, so it's about a mile on each side.
This is a "keep reading" day. Tomorrow we'll discuss the glory of the Lord and the altar.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
LINK: Psalm 140 and Psalm 141
Both these psalms deal with the use of the tongue – with verbal sin.
BACKGROUND AND REFLECTION
David faced enemies on the battlefield throughout his life, so understood violence. He had needed God’s protection many times. This psalm, though, asks God for protection from a different kind of enemy, those who do violence with their words. The psalm implies that these enemies weren’t from a godless nation, either, but were from among the nation of
David makes clear his trust in the LORD here. He asks God to deliver, preserve, and guard him. He knows that God has done it in the past and he’s confident that He will do it again.
The psalm asks that those enemies be punished in a way that fits their crime. David asks God to let them be punished through their own words. Let “the mischief of their lips overwhelm them.” (9) These people bring about evil through their speech and David wants them caught up by the evil that they bring about.
So how is that proper for one of God’s people to pray that way? First, it is clear from the psalm that these “enemies” intend to do damage. They want to hurt and wound and cause trouble. The prayer faces circumstances the way they really are. These people want to hurt God’s servant and want to exalt themselves over God. If they succeed they will do great damage. It’s also a just prayer. David is simply asking for justice. Finally, it’s clear that this prayer isn’t a vengeful or vindictive response to personal injury, but is an appeal to God based on faith. David doesn’t seek vengeance himself; He leaves these evil people in God’s hands.
One reason I love the psalms is for their honesty. This is an honest prayer. We can’t get to real love without honesty, without going through justice first.
The prayer ends with a declaration of trust in the LORD followed by a response:
“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
and will execute justice for the needy.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence.”
David knows that God is in charge and that He will do what is right. Rather than stewing about injury or figuring out how to get even, the righteous (those made right with God through faith) live in God’s presence and give thanks to Him.
The theme of the next psalm, Psalm 141, is a natural extension of what David dealt with here in Psalm 140. I am so glad that it follows immediately because I think it shows how we are often tempted.
After praying about the evil done by others with their speech (Psalm 140), David dives right into his own heart and turns to the LORD.
David had been hurt by the words of others. He is coming to God with his evening prayers, laying his heart before the LORD. He is tempted to use his own mouth as a weapon, to hurt those who hurt him.
So he does the only thing any of us can do in that situation. He prays honestly and asks God to guard his lips, to set a watch over his mouth, to keep his heart from wanting to repay evil with evil. He realizes that he can easily be caught up in the net of sin and snared by his own words. He doesn’t want to be like those who are sinning with their speech.
There is a kind of parenthesis in the middle of this psalm. David makes clear that there is a difference between slanderous words meant to injure and the admonition of someone who holds him accountable:
"Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it." (5)
It is not ever enjoyable to be rebuked, but David recognizes that it is a kindness, even a kind of blessing, to be rebuked by someone who loves the LORD, who is righteous.
David turns to the LORD for refuge and defense.
I don’t know which side of this use of the tongue issue you find yourself on today. Maybe both.
Perhaps you are using your words as weapons to sting and hurt someone else. If so, stop! Turn to the LORD and ask forgiveness and ask Him to guard your mouth.
When others spread gossip about us or say things that aren’t true about us, it hurts. Frequently we want to get even. But that’s not the response the LORD wants us to have. Our response shouldn’t be to repay in like kind. We should recognize what has happened. We have been sinned against. Then we get the chance to turn to our Lord Jesus, who surely understands what it is to be slandered. Like David, we can turn to Him for refuge and ask Him for justice. Leave the desire for justice with Him (and the anger and bitterness).
And even more, we know that Jesus died for us, and not because we are good and deserve it! “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) He understands what it is to be slandered, yet He not only refused to reply in like kind, but He took on the punishment for those who have been guilty of it. If He can forgive, then surely those of us who are called by His name can, too. So do that.
Father, we ask that you set a guard over not only our mouths and lips, but that you watch our hearts, too. Give us honest hearts that look to you for refuge when we are gossiped about or slandered. We don’t want to strike out in like kind. Help us to love as you love. Help us not to gloss over sin, but to recognize it and then deal with it in a way that pleases you and reflects you.