Friday, September 30, 2011

Psalm 27 - The Key to Confidence in Crisis is Communion

LINK: Psalm 27

BACKGROUND 

I gave a message on this psalm with many Hebrew word definitions back in 2000. Here is a PDF of the handout I made for the talk: 
Psalm 27 - The Key to Confidence in Crisis is Communion (click on this link)
Enjoy! I so loved preparing this talk, and I also enjoyed learning how to scan the handout in a PDF since it is on a very old computer, and it cannot be forwarded.

REFLECTION 

Psalm 27 is my favorite Psalm. It means so much to me personally.  Why? I'm glad you asked. 

First of all, it is my birthday Psalm (I was born on July 27).

Secondly, it contains my life verse: 
One thing I have asked of the LORD that I shall seek: 
That I dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to meditate in His temple.  
(Psalm 27:4)
For me, this is the ONE THING that is needful in our walk with God. Jesus told Martha this when Mary was sitting at His feet instead of helping with the hospitality:
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
One last reason this is my favorite psalm: For many years, I was a big scaredy cat (this means "an unduly fearful person"). By nature, I fear what man can do to me (27:1). I know it will be impossible for those of you who know me in person to believe, but I used to be pretty afraid of people. My "bubbly" "vivacious" personality really used to be because I was so afraid in social situations. I so feared rejection that, out of nerves, I would work really hard to have them like me.Through much healing, this does not happen anymore!  

What is left may look pretty similar to what others saw on the outside (I am still pretty bubbly), but it comes from a different place now: true joy from beholding God's beauty! I just dwell in Him in the midst of people, not fearing them but loving them, and it has made all the difference! WOOHOO!

I had an opportunity to apply this psalm on Monday! The past two years, I have dreaded going to a big furniture giveaway to the international students that our town puts on every year. I would be stressed all day, but I was not stressed at all this last Monday. God had already spoken to me on Sunday about keeping my focus on Him and do the "ONE THING" that was needful in the midst of all the people. The worry and anxiety were dispelled, and I had the best time I have ever had!!!  God is so good. :)

APPLICATION 

Do you want to become a person of confidence? Become a person of communion! What is your commitment to communion this coming year? I have two women who hold me accountable daily in key areas of my life, and this is one of them! Who will hold you accountable?

Here is another application from the Daily Walk, June 5, 2008 that I really liked:
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being low and 10 high, how would you rate your "fear quotient" on the following? 
____ Fear of standing before a large group 
____ Fear of snakes or lizards 
____ Fear of the dark 
____ Fear of the future  
Fear, like acid, can destory even the strongest resolve That which terrifies you, controls you. But it needn't be that way! "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). 
David knew what it was to be afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the enemies encamped all around him. But he learned the secret of overcoming those fears: not denying that he had fears, but relying on Someone bigger than they were. In Psalm 27:1, you'll discover what David found: the Lord is the cure of what intimidates you! He has light to dispel your darkness and strength to replace your weakness. And you, like David, have the privilege of drawing upon those resources today. 
David took God at His word (27:5). Will you? 
PRAYER

This a lovely psalm to pray through and personalize! When I disciple women, this is usually the first one I pray through with them to teach them how to do it! In 34 years of discipling women, we have been blessed every single time! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Psalm 10 - God Will Right All Wrongs

LINK: Psalm 10 (read it in all three versions!)

BACKGROUND

As I said yesterday, commentators believe Psalm 9 and 10 were one big psalm because there is no attribution to David in Psalm 10 when it is in the middle of others that are attributed to him.

This psalm contains similar themes discussed in previous posts this week. David was honest with God regarding his need for help (almost seeming to complain). He is quick to plead for justice over the wicked and concludes by exalting God as King and the one who hears all our cries!

REFLECTION/APPLICATION (Written in 2011)

I saw that a new television show will be airing this fall called Revenge. It is about a young woman who moves to the Hamptons to seek revenge for her father's murder. It looks really creepy. I am thinking she did not read Psalm 10 because it maps out a different path that allows God to right all wrongs.

This reading in the Daily Walk (June 2, 2008) speaks perfectly to the issue of revenge:
"Why, O LORD?" (10:1). What Christian hasn't asked that question, particularly when the wicked seem to prosper without punishment and God does nothing in answer to the prayers of His children? 
In Psalm 10 the psalmist touches the nerve of this painful problem and probes for God's divine perspective on it. True, the proud and self-sufficient are prospering in their ways; true, they are seemingly getting away with murder; true, God has seemingly forgotten about bringing justice to bear (at least from the perspective of the wicked). But don't be lulled into following their wicked course. God has seen the injustice they commit; God has not overlooked their mischief and spite; the day of payment for their wickeness will come. And when it does, you will be glad you didn't walk with the wicked. 
Are you struggling with feelings of bitterness toward God or revenge toward another over an injustice you suffered at the hands of someone? There are two paths you can follow: (1) Nurse your grudge and demand that God answer your why; or (2) turn your grudge over to God and in exchange find His strength to bear up under your sufferings. Read verses 16-18 out loud as your confident testimony that "the LORD is King." 
PRAYER

Praise to You, our righteous King! You know the score on every account, and You vindicate us in Your righteousness!  Lord, I pray for true honesty with You for all on the Bible Book Club because that is where a genuine relationship with You starts. I LOVE You! Thank You for being there through every step of my life!!! Amen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Psalm 9 - Honesty Opens the Door to Trust

LINK: Psalm 9

BACKGROUND

Many commentators believe Psalm 9 and 10 were actually one psalm because Psalm 10 is the only Psalm from Psalm 3-32 that does not have a superscription (intro with background) and has similar wording to Psalm 9 like "times of trouble." There is also an emphasis on "mortal men" and the mention of the word "nations" in both psalms. We will read Psalm 10 tomorrow.

This is primarily a psalm of praise and thanksgiving for vindication. God is the true and eternal Judge. The afflicted can trust in Him. It comforts the oppressed but would terrify the oppressor! 

REFLECTION 

David blows the lid off our concept that we have to have it all together to approach God! David was brutally honest about how he felt, even if it meant being angry because he did not feel that God was hearing him or doing anything for him. 


God knows what you are feeling anyway. You might as well be honest with Him. God is very secure in who He is (because He is GOD). Honesty is the pathway of prayer one must take even if it does not seem all tidy and spiritual in your own mind. That pathway helps you face your fear and lack of faith so that God can lead you all the way through it. Then, when you decide to trust in Him, "The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry you knocked" (Psalm 9:10, The Message).  Honesty gets us up to the door before we knock. 

The key verse in this Psalm is: 


Those who know your name will trust in you, 
for you, LORD, have never forsaken 
those who seek you.
(Psalm 9:10) 

The key word in this verse is "know." In the Hebrew, it is not an intellectual knowledge of God but a relational and experiential knowledge of Him. The more we put our trust in Him the more we will experience His faithfulness, but it always has to begin with an honest relationship with Him. 

APPLICATION

Be honest with God today. Tell Him you want to know Him through the difficulty. Ask God, "What do you want me to know?" Then listen to what He says. 

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that we can come to Your throne of grace with confidence and receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Thank You for the example of David who came with confidence. Help us to come to You confidently too, and to cultivate an honest relationship with You. We want to learn to rely on You and trust in You in every trial we face in this life. Thank You so much for Your great love for us. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Psalm 37 - Action Plan for the Righteous

LINK: Psalm 37

BACKGROUND 

This is another "low-period" psalm of David and appropriately following Psalm 36 because it builds on it. The message is also similar to that contained in Psalms 49 and 73 that we will read next year. It contains instructions that the righteous not be disturbed when they see the seeming prosperity of the wicked because God knows all and is the great equalizer in the end. 

He instructs them with both negative and positive command verbs:

Do not fret
Be not envious
Trust
Do 
Dwell
Cultivate (feed securely)
Delight
Commit 
Trust 
Rest (Be still)
Wait 
Do not fret
Cease 
Forsake
Do not fret
Depart
Do 
Wait 
Keep

Those are all calls to action. Do not fret is the front runner of the command verbs. Sometimes, we fret and run into things we know are not right (see below).

Now have some fun and list all the promises for the righteous contrasted with what is in store for the wicked!l 

REFLECTION 

This psalm always encourages me to stay focused and active when I am down. It is so full of promises that will last into eternity! It was a great help in focusing my heart as I saw the majority of my friends get married in their 20's while I continued to remain single. 

It also reminds me of a single woman who preached on this.  She went through all the command verbs, and encouraged us specifically to "delight, commit, trust, and rest in the Lord."  She was in full-time ministry with an organization that has done tremendous things on behalf of children. 

She was a godly woman, but she really wanted to be married. I think she was 26 when I was 22. She used to say, "Just wait until you are 26, Carol. You will not be as content in your singleness!"  

Well, if you know me that just challenged me to be content! I thought, "Just wait and see! I will be content!"  

So, 27 rolled around, and I was still single and fairly content. I had heard that she had gotten married and moved away from the area. So, I called her former ministry. The lady on the phone gave me her number but seemed sad. She did not gossip or tell me anything other than the number, but I wondered what was up.

I called this friend and congratulated her on her marriage. She was really upfront in telling me that she had married a non-believer and was no longer walking with the Lord. She seemed sad and regretful. Writing this makes me want to contact her again. It has been almost 25 years though!

This woman was not willing to wait for God's best by "delighting, committing, trusting, and resting."  I have heard the same song over and over again. There are many woman who married non-believers that have told me that they would be more than happy to talk to young women contemplating such a move. I do not know one who did not regret the decision. Life can be very difficult to be so "unequally yoked" with someone (2 Corinthians 2:14).  One in particular had become a believer after she had started dating a man. She knew God wanted her to break off the relationship, but she told me she flatly disobeyed and married him (on the same day as me, but I did not know her then). Her marriage was tough, but she stuck with her non-believing husband according to 1 Corinthians 7:13. Fifteen long years later, she had three beautiful children, but a husband who was making illegal drugs in their barn! 

Not all marriages to non-believers are as bad as this (she divorced after the cops raided her home, he was put in jail, and she was penniless), but many are very difficult (marriages between two believers are difficult too!), and it comes down to not trusting God for His best!  

Whatever you may be longing or waiting for, focus on and delight in the LORD! Feed on Him and enjoy security with Him. The grass is always greenest on the Lord's side!  

By the way, this post has inspired me to track down this old friend to see how she is doing. I last talked to her in 1987! I have a call in to her former ministry. Pray I find her!

2014 Update: No one ever called me back with her contact information. I will pray for her today.

APPLICATION/PRAYER

Pray through this Psalm and personalize it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Psalm 12 & 36 - Turning to God in Low Times

LINK: Psalm 12 and Psalm 36

BACKGROUND 

Psalm 12

This psalm fits perfectly with a low point in David's life. He had fled from Absalom, and Shimei came out of nowhere to malign David (2 Samuel 16)!  Lips that speak lies, deceptively flatter, malign, and boast are contrasted with the words of the LORD that are flawless and pure, refined to purity like silver is refined.  His words stand true above all other words. He sets us safely away from the bad words of others too!

Psalm 36

In this psalm, God's love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice, protection, and provision are contrasted with evil men. We do not need to fear evil people because God cares for us and will continue to care for us forever!

REFLECTION 

Men were trying to destroy David's integrity (Absalom and Shimei). Both these psalms speak to a focus on God rather than people who lie and malign. It does not pay to defend ourselves. It pays to trust in the LORD. I strongly believe that God allows it to happen for our character growth.

While meditating on Psalm 12 today, I saw that I had underlined Psalm 12:5, "I will protect them from those who malign them" (NIV). (I also like the way the NASB says it, "I will set him [her] in the safety for which [s]he longs.") I had written the date 9/16/06, and the initials of three leaders who had slandered me with untruths. I have forgiven them, but it reminded me of the situation behind this.

Several months after I had removed myself from a ministry situation with a person, who lacked integrity, a woman came to my door to ask me if I had done and said certain things. I laughed because I had not. She (who knew me) said, "I thought so, and I told the person who told me that you would not do something like that."  I thanked her, encouraged her to follow the chain back and have the initial accuser call me (did not happen), called one of the rumor spreaders (He saw nothing wrong with talking about me behind my back. Even if what he said had been true, I was the person he needed to speak to about it instead of telling a group of people who, in turn, told other people.), talked to the pastor in authority over them (nothing happened). Then, I claimed this verse. 

I longed for safety, and God granted it (especially in the ministry situation that I am in now. I never knew it could be SO good). I firmly believed in God's protection then, moved on, and did not give it a second thought. Freedom. Growth. (I also slept like a baby through the whole ordeal, Psalm 4:8.)

Time has proven that the integrity of the initial "accuser" was very suspect anyway. Now, I am much more careful about who I choose as friends and coworkers.  God used it all for good and taught me so much about Himself through the process. Win-Win!

APPLICATION

Let's face it, people are going to malign us now and then. I want to be like David who moved on down the road and allowed the Lord to "repay him with good" and "refreshed himself" in the Lord's arms!  

PRAYER

Pray through Psalm 36 today!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2 Samuel 16 - Insults and Advice

LINK: 2 Samuel 16

BACKGROUND


In this chapter, the servant of Miphibosheth, Ziba, told David that Miphibosheth had gone back to Jerusalem in hopes of reclaiming Saul's throne. David believed him and gave him all that belonged to Mephibosheth without confirming Ziba's claim. We will find out in 2 Samuel 19 that this is not true.

Shimei, a man from the house of Saul, came out and cursed David with untrue insults (David had never shed Saul's blood but honored him as the Lord's anointed). Abishai wanted to cut off the man's head, but David allowed the man to vent and left it in the Lord's hands. He went on exhausted but eventually refreshed himself in the Lord.

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Hushai (David's spy) convinced Absalom that he had defected to his side and Ahithophel advised Absalom to have relations with David's concubines in order to affirm his secession and to fulfill what Nathan had prophesied in 12:11, 12: that another man would sleep with David's wives.

REFLECTION


Remember my reflection from a while back about the woman who still believes that I have ill will against her and is saying things behind my back? I learned a valuable thing from David's encounter with Shimei in 16:5-14. He quietly tolerated the unjustified abuse toward him. I want to maintain my composure just like David. I cannot stop this dear woman's criticism of me even though it, too, is unjustified. My flesh wants to shout in defense and say:

"I'm innocent!"


But like David, I will ignore it and leave it in the Lord's hands. He knows what I am enduring, and he will vindicate me. That is so comforting. In the meantime, I will pray for her.

2014 Update: The Lord straightened it all out. 

APPLICATION


Perhaps you have been falsely accused. Can you follow David's example and let the Lord straighten it all out?

PRAYER


Lord, thank You that You are the righteous judge, and our vindication is only from You. Thank You that You are always on the side of the innocent. Thank You that You know what we are enduring and allow these things to grow us to full maturity in You. Thank You for the process of growth that You are taking each of us through. Lord, please vindicate Your servants. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Psalm 26 - God is a Righteous Judge

LINK: Psalm 26

BACKGROUND 

Again, this psalm is traditionally associated with Absalom's rebellion (2 Samuel 15), but there is no attribution that confirms this. 

David appealed to the righteous Judge to clear his name of all false charges against him. He asserted his integrity. He asserted blamelessness (not sinlessness but consistent fellowship with God by asking for forgiveness) and proved it by proclaiming he associated with the right people (see also Psalm 1). He could go into the tabernacle, which he loved, with a clear conscience and proclaim the Lord's praise. 

REFLECTION 

I am reading Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell right now; and the heroine, Molly Gibson, is being slandered by gossips and accused of things she has never done. I feel her pain! I have been accused of things that I have never done more than once, and it hurts.

David's plea to God is an encouragement for us all to take our case to the only righteous Judge.  He hears. He sees all. That is such a comfort.

APPLICATION 

Feeling misunderstood? Being falsely accused?  Take heart and take it to the LORD!

PRAYER

Lord, I praise You as the only righteous Judge. We come to You with our problems. We plead our case before You and thank You that You have a reason for everything that happens to us. We WILL praise You in the midst of the assembly, Lord. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Psalm 11 & 23 - Fear or Faith?

LINK: Psalm 11 & Psalm 23

BACKGROUND

Both of these psalms contain cries for help and trust in God in the midst of trouble and are traditionally associated with Absalom's rebellion. 

Psalm 11 


When the crisis with Absalom came about, David's counselors told him to flee Jerusalem. David alludes to this in Psalm 3:2 and 4:6 from our reading yesterday. In this Psalm, David holds fast to his faith and encourages us to look up to the One who is seated on His throne. He has got it all covered. If only we could see foundation shaking current events from His perspective!  

If you have not followed through on the application from a few days ago and want to have a perspective of faith rather than fear on today's current events, I strongly encourage you to listen to these two messages:

Serve to Win: Part 1

The Other Side of Fear: Part 2

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is like an old and dear friend. :) Even growing up in a non-believing home, I knew this psalm. It was usually read at funerals. I am not sure if it still is today. I am not sure a young person from a non-believing background would know it though. 


David wrote about God as a shepherd because he could speak from his own personal experience as one (2 Samuel 16:10, 11). Also, in the ancient Near East, kings compared themselves to shepherds of the people. Sheep are pretty dumb and helpless, and they need a shepherd for everything!  So do we. :)


In this psalm we see that God nourishes, restores, guides, protects, and provides. 


Here are a few definitions for you:

  • quiet waters = waters of rest
  • paths of righteousness = a well-worn way that is God's way
  • for His name's sake = God guides and cares for the people of God because His reputation is at stake
  • rod and staff = shepherd's equipment for protection of the sheep in every situation
  • anointed the head with oil = In the ancient Near East, it was customary to anoint a guest with fragrant oil. Some commentators think this is the shepherd who applied soothing oil to bruised, injured, or sick sheep.
  • cup overflows = lot in life was abundantly blessed
The Lord's goodness and love follow a person who obediently follows the Shepherd of his soul!

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


Jesus refers to Himself as the good shepherd (John 10:11), the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as the great Shepherd (13:20-21), and Peter calls Him the Chief Shepherd (1 Peters 5:4). 


REFLECTION


This psalm gives me goosebumps. It hearkens back to a time of extreme loneliness, stress, fear, and exhaustion my first time overseas. I was not pleasing the people I went there to serve, and I felt very much unloved.  I had nowhere to turn but to the Lord, and He met me in this psalm.


I have special memories of God taking me out to a pastoral setting in Santiago de Compostela to bring rest to my weary soul. He ministered to me in that place, and I wrote music to a poem I used to read to the children I cared for there (see post for Psalm 8 for more on the poems I would read) .




(I sang Psalm 23 when I was 23 years old! The words in the book are backwards, and I do not know why.)

PRAYER

Pray responsively through Psalm 23 today imagining yourself in the scene! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Psalm 3 & 4 - Rejoicing in God's Protection and Peace

LINK: Psalm 3 & 4

BACKGROUND


These Psalms were possibly written at the same time. We know that Psalm 3 was written by David, and it relates to the situation in 2 Samuel 15:13 - 17:22 when David's son, Absalom, conspired to overthrow him, and he had to flee from Jerusalem.


Some scholars think both Psalms were written at the same time because of parallel references to:


Glory  
But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head (3:3).

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame (4:2)? 
and 
Sleep 
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me (3:5).

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety (4:8)

REFLECTION

Throughout the years, I have let those words;



I will lie down and sleep in peace
for You alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety. . . 

wash over me like a soothing balm during sleepless nights rife with anxiety and fear. Tonight, I pulled out an old Bible and read what I wrote next to this verse many years ago:



" Even in distress away from 
the visible evidence of God's goodness."

In addition, dates from 1985 to 1994 were scrawled next to this verse that were no doubt added in the wee hours of the morning where sleep had eluded me because of anxiety once again. I was an insomniac for many years. In fact, there was one stretch of time prior to my nervous breakdown in 1983 when I had not slept peacefully through the night for 4 1/2 years!


At that time, I could not see God's goodness on the surface, but I tenaciously claimed this verse as my own with eyes of faith to believe that He was good despite my circumstances. I knew that He would keep me safe through the storms just as he kept David safe from distresses far worse than my own. I knew that God cared even though His goodness was not evident on the surface.


I have seen great growth in this area of my life in more recent years. In 2001, I experienced one of the worst distresses of my life, but I slept like a baby in the arms of God every night! In the midst of it, I realized that it was a "moment that had been gaining on me, secretly, like a piece of music played while I slept" 
(from Lief Enger's Peace Like a River). This Psalm that had once been a "strange song" to me, was one I "knew by heart"That was a lovely moment of transformation.

APPLICATION


Perhaps you are one who deals regularly with anxiety and fear. Let me encourage you to "cast your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Here is a little exercise that I do periodically that I adapted from a class by my friend, Beth Lambright, on "The Devoted Life."


There is something about physically casting your anxieties on the Lord that cements it. While George and I were dating, I went to a river with one of his fishing rods and did one cast for every single thing that was causing me anxiety in our relationship. There were MANY casts made that day including one about whether he was EVER going to ask me to marry him! And that cast was the only one that hooked me a fish! Three months later we were engaged! 


You do not have to use a fishing rod, but you can take rocks and "cast" them into a river or a lake or write your burdens down on pieces of paper and burn them one by one in a fire or crinkle them up and throw them in a trash can. However you decide to do it, start casting and make it a regular habit!


Sleep in peace, my friends. The Lord cares for you and is with you to keep you safe from all harm!


PRAYER


Lord, thank You that You care for us and love us deeply. Sometimes our circumstances overwhelm us to where we are even robbed of sleep. Draw us to Yourself during that time. Teach us to "lie down and sleep in peace" knowing that You are a God who "makes us dwell in safety" and security because of Your great love for us. Teach us to daily "cast our cares upon You because You care for us." We love You LORD and thank You for Your peace and protection. We ask this all in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2 Samuel 15 - Absalom's Rebellion

LINK: 2 Samuel 15

BACKGROUND

Absalom began the rebellion against his father by standing at the gate and promising, those with complaints, better justice than David could give. Thus he "stole away the hearts of the men of Israel" (15:6).  Sounds like Absalom would have made a great modern day politician!

After four years (The Greek Septuagint says "4" and the Hebrew says "40" but this may have referred back to David's anointing in Bethlehem), under the ruse of going to pay a vow, Absalom went to Hebron and claimed his rulership with Ahithophel, David's counselor (and Bathsheba's grandfather), on his side along with many others.

When David heard of Absalom's conspiracy, he fled Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives followed by his loyal men, people from the city, and the Levites with the Ark of the Covenant. But David sent the priests and Ark back to its sanctuary knowing that if it was God's will for him to be king, he would return to it.

In despair, on the Mount of Olives, David prayed and sent Hushai back to Absalom as a spy and to frustrate Ahithophel's counsel.

REFLECTION 

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

David's prayer on the Mount of Olives strengthened him and girded him for action and eventual return to his kingship. About 1000 years later, Jesus' prayer on the same Mount of Olives on the night of His betrayal would help Him gather strength from His Father to face the road to the cross and eventual exaltation as King of kings!

We too can find strength in our time of need just as David and Jesus did. Pray, dear friends, PRAY!


APPLICATION /PRAYER

Psalm 3 was written by David when he fled from Absalom. Meditate on it and discover how David dealt with difficulties. I will have a post on it and Psalm 4 tomorrow!

Morning Prayer of Trust in God

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

1 O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.

2 Many are saying of my soul,

"There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah.

3 But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

4 I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

5 I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2 Samuel 14 - Absalom's Separation from David

LINK: 2 Samuel 14

BACKGROUND

David had acted irresponsibly by not taking action regarding Absalom's murder of Amnon. Joab saw the wide gulf between David and Absalom and used a parable told by the woman of Takoa (seven miles south of Bethlehem and birthplace of the Prophet Amos) to let David see the error of his ways (See 2 Samuel 12:1-5 for another parable that got through to David).

In this parable, the woman was worried that because one of her sons killed the other, her other relatives would kill her only remaining son, leaving her penniless and without a son to carry on her husband's name. Numbers 35:9-21 talks about how blood avengers were to pursue murderers, and the woman asked for David's protection. David promised it, and she accosted him with the meaning of her parable. If he could grant amnesty and mercy to an unknown murderer, surely he would grant it to his own son who had intentionally murdered!

David figured out that Joab was behind it and invited Absalom back to Jerusalem but would not see him face to face. Absalom showed more of his terrible character by setting fire to Joab's field when he could not get Joab to intervene. Finally, after two years, Joab intervened and the handsome, self-centered Absalom was invited into David's presence. As we shall soon see, it was only a temporary peace. Absalom's heart was cold, and his character was already set toward rebellion and destruction.

REFLECTION

I love the picture of God's mercy painted by the woman of Takoa:
For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from Him. (2 Samuel 14:14)

God has planned a way for us, my friends! We, too, were meant to be banished ones, but we have been brought near by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13). Hallelujah!

APPLICATION

Bathe in your Heavenly Father's mercy toward you today by meditating on Ephesians 1 & 2 or the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

PRAYER

Father, thank You that You have provided a way out of our banishment through the shed blood of Jesus Christ that brought us near to You. We look forward to seeing You face to face in eternity. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Psalm 108 & 124 - Triumphal Songs of Help and Deliverance

LINK:Psalm 108 & Psalm 124 
(Parallel Amplified and The Message versions for fun)


BACKGROUND 


Psalm 108 and 124 are more "victory over enemy psalms." So, I put them here to complement Psalm 20 and 21.


Psalm 108:1-5 is similar to Psalm 57:7-11. Psalm 108:6-13 is similar to Psalm 60:5-12. It is a song of triumph.  David had confident expectation that all His enemies among the peoples would be destroyed through God's divine help. 


Psalm 124 is special in that it is a Song of Ascent that I already explained about here. It is a psalm rich in metaphors. Can you identify them?


REFLECTION  (written in 2011)


I was praying through Psalm 124 in The Message tonight and personalized it:


Oh, blessed be God!
      He didn't go off and leave me.
   He didn't abandon me defenseless,
      helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.

  I've flown free from their fangs,
      free of their traps, free as a bird.
   Their grip is broken;
      I'm free as a bird in flight.

  God's strong name is my help,
      the same God who made heaven and earth.


I could go into detail, but I have to be careful and just say that I was once in the midst of a pack of snarling dogs (metaphorically speaking). But God did not go off and leave me, and He allowed me to fly free as a bird away from their trap.  I had been trapped in between those dogs for a while, and it had taken its toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Once God delivered me, my kids immediately noticed a difference in me.  Every June 16, I celebrate another year of "freedom from the fangs," and I give praise and glory to God who did not go off and leave me.  God's strong name is my help!  YIPPEE!


APPLICATION 


God's strong name is your help too. Take some time to soak in Psalm 124 today. Do you now feel or have you ever felt like you were being eaten alive?  If it was in the past, think through the situation and give praise to God for freeing you. If you are currently in a situation like that now, pray through that. Do you believe God is for you or against you? 


PRAYER


Thank You that Your strong name is our help, God. Free us from the grip of the enemy, and help us to fly. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Psalm 20 & 21 - Faith-filled Prayers and Praise

LINK: Psalm 20Psalm 21

BACKGROUND

Both these psalms are closely related in structure and content.  According to Deuteronomy 20-21, officers and soldiers were to dedicate themselves to the Lord before battle. Psalm 20 is David's faith-filled intercessory prayer of dedication before battle. Throughout the psalm, David prays, and the people respond in unison (20:5, 7-9).

Psalm 21 is probably a praise song of deliverance after the victories that were prayed for in Psalm 20. Psalm 21:13 is the vow of the people to sing and praise the Lord.

I put these psalms here because of David's victory over the Ammonites and the fact that the Ammonite king's golden crown was placed on David's head (2 Samuel 12:30) like the golden crown mentioned in Psalm 21:3.

REFLECTION

David believed God for the battle and praised God for His answers. These are two things I often neglect to do. I want to have faith-filled intercession like David. I also want to remember to praise Him for every victory along the way.  

How about you?

PRAYER

Lord, I confess my unbelief about what You can do. You will accomplish what concerns You. I praise You ahead of time for what You will do this new year. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

2 Samuel 12:13b - 13:38 - A House Divided

LINK: 2 Samuel 12:13b - 13:38

BACKGROUND

After all David's psalms of repentance, we pick up the narrative again. David was forgiven and restored even though adultery and murder were cause for execution (Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 20:10). We have learned from the previous four days of Psalm readings that God is a gracious and compassionate God, but there are often consequences to our sin, and there was nothing David could do to reverse them. Nathan prophesied that the sword would never depart from his house (12:10 is fulfilled in the conflict with Absalom. See 13:28 and 18:14.). Also, he prophesied that David's wives would be taken from him (12:11 was fulfilled when Absalom lay with David's concubines in 16:22).

The immediate consequence of David's sin was the death of the child conceived between Bathsheba and David. The surprise at David ceasing his fasting once the child died (12:21) was because fasting and mourning usually occurred when someone died, but David knew he could not reverse God's hand.

The bright spot in all the consequences was the birth of a second son, Solomon ("peace"), named Jedidiah ("loved by the LORD") by Nathan. 

2 Samuel 13 is the beginning of the consequence of the sword never departing from his house (12:10). Amnon, David's firstborn son by Ahinoam (3:2) raped Tamar, Absalom's sister by David's wife Maaacah (3:3). Rape is horrible and relations between half brothers and sisters was forbidden (Leviticus 20:17).  Because he had violated a virgin, he was to marry her (Deuteronomy 22:29) but sent her away. David did nothing about it, and Absalom hated Amnon and waited two years before he avenged the rape by having his servant murder Amnon. 

This is the beginning of a family divided because of the consequences of sin. 

PRAYER

Lord, unite our homes under the banner of Your love. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Psalm 103 - Pure Praise for All

LINK: Psalm 103

BACKGROUND

There are no requests in this psalm, just pure praise for all the Lord's blessings! Traditionally, this Psalm has been connected with David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). He praised the Lord for forgiving him and redeeming his life from the pit. He told of God's compassion, graciousness, and abundant lovingkindness (ḥesed, "loyal love"). He tells us that our transgressions are removed from us "as high as the heaven are above all the earth" and "as far as the east is from the west" (in other words, infinitely far because east and west can never meet).

APPLICATION and PRAYER

Pray through "Morning Affirmations" and this Psalm, counting your many blessings and praising the LORD!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Psalm 6 & 32 - Selling Points of Confession

LINK: Psalm 6 & Psalm 32 (Amplified)

BACKGROUND

As I mentioned yesterday, these psalms have many similarities to Psalm 38. 

Compare:
6:1 with 38:1
32:3 with 38:3, 8, 13-14; and 
32:5 with 38:18

There is also a description of David's physical condition in 6 and 32.  It is believed that these Psalms may have been written at the same time as Psalm 51, but we do not know for sure. 

I put Psalm 32 at the end of this group of Penitential Psalms because it is a summation of all David learned through his confession. They are the words of a man who extolled the blessedness of confession because he had gone through the painful process to forgiveness and true joy! 

REFLECTION

I think some of us think of confession as a very horrible thing, especially public confession!  But David wanted to give a "Case for Confession" in Psalm 32. Confession is good. David tells us if we do not confess there are physical and emotional symptoms that are far worse than keeping silent about our sin.  

Confession is simply agreeing with God as He brings things to our hearts. Here is a good delineation between allowing God to expose our sin and introspection:
When we search our own hearts it can lead to imaginations, morbid introspection, or anything the enemy may want to throw before us. But when the Holy Spirit searches He will bring to Your attention that which should be confessed and cleansed.     
Lorne Sanny in "How to Spend a Day in Prayer"
That is why it is imperative that we be in God's Word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict us as we spend time soaking in it. This diagram from 1 Timothy 3:16 illustrates what the Word does in our life, the Word through the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance (correction) that leads us on God's perfect path. How wonderful that we are not left to guilt and condemnation!
When we allow the Holy Spirit to "search our hearts and see if there is any hurtful way" in us, confession is a joy and delight because God's kindness leads us to repentance:
Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God's will)?  Romans 2:4 
(The Amplified Bible)
It was a very hot summer day during my last day of prayer. I was in a house devoid of air-conditioning, and I was meditating on Psalm 32 when I came to David's strength being sapped "as in the heat of summer" (32:4).  I had that word picture at the forefront of my mind as I sipped on cold, herbal ice teas throughout the day.  

I realized how sin does sap you of all strength, but God's love and forgiveness restores and revitalizes us.  In the midst of this tea sipping meditation, I wrote this crazy little song:

Your love is . . . 
Like a glass of ice tea
On a hot summer day
You fill my cup
You fill me up

Sin was a drought
A hot and messy drought
You came along
You gave me this song
And poured cold water
On all my sin

Oooo Ooo Ooo
It's so cool and clear
And You are so near

APPLICATION

Take time to meditate in these Psalms and appreciate how confession is not a humiliating experience but a freeing one.   

PRAYER

Pray responsively through these Psalms.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Psalm 38 - Sin's Sickness

LINK: Psalm 38 (Amplified) & Psalm 38 (The Message)

BACKGROUND

This is another Penitential Psalm of David. It is very similar to Psalm 6 and 32 that we will read tomorrow.

It is pretty easy to understand, but I did not know what it meant to have "no soundness of flesh" (38:3)?  The NIV helped me understand that it meant "no health in my body."

During my last day of prayer, I meditated on it in the Amplified Bible (see link above) because I loved the imagery that it evoked. The Message also does a good job. Imagine "arrows" of conviction from the Lord or His hand pressing You because of your sin. What would it be like to have a "flood wave" of iniquity crashing over your head? Meditate on this and imagine this in your meditations.

David's sin led to many health problems, it separated him from God and others, and caused him to be very lonely!  Sin is not something to hold on to! We need to confess and let it go!

REFLECTION

Sin can sometimes make us sick! Not all sickness is caused by sin, but some is!  Why do we sin then? 

This quote sums up why we sin:


"Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness." 

-Simone Weil, philosopher, mystic, activist 

(1909-1943)

Praying we fly TO the only one who can fill that emptiness!

APPLICATION

Take some time today and ask God to reveal your emptiness to you and how you are trying to fill that void.  
In Your presence is FULLNESS of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 16:11

PRAYER

Lord, bring us back to Your presence and right hand. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.