Psalm 82

How long?

This is a question we have seen over and over again in the Psalms as God’s people cry out, wondering how long it will be until God responds.

Psalm 82 is different. Here, God is doing the questioning.

“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?” (v. 2 CSB)

God questions the ruler of the day:
How long will you allow injustice?
How long will you favor one group over another when you judge?

God then gives instructions for how justice should be administered.

“Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Rescue the poor and needy;
save them from the power of the wicked.” (v. 3-4 CSB)

Stop favoring the powerful.
Provide justice to the needy, the fatherless, the oppressed, and the destitute.
Uphold their rights.
Rescue the poor and needy from wicked people.

God cares about social justice.

To ignore justice or to administer it unfairly is to wander in darkness and shake the foundations that God has established.

They do not know or understand;
they wander in darkness.
All the foundations of the earth are shaken. (v. 5 CSB)

God also gave a message about justice to Isaiah.
In Isaiah’s day, God’s people had accused God of not taking notice when they fasted and prayed. God responds by exposing the hypocrisy of His people. They were fasting and praying, expecting justice from God, while at the same time being unjust and unfair toward others. This fasting is not acceptable to God. Instead, God declares the fast that He has chosen as acceptable includes justice toward others.

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:6-8 CSB

God cares about social justice.

How long will it be until we do too?

For more on a biblical view of justice and how we can be people who do it, I highly recommend Timothy Keller’s sermon, “Justice”. You can access this sermon in a variety of ways. I’ve included links below.

Timothy Keller’s sermon “Justice”, based on Isaiah 58:1-14.
Free Audio Download here.

Article based on the sermon here.

Podcast on iTunes here. Look for sermon #78 “Justice”.

Father, I want to care about what You care about. You care about justice. Help me to do justice as You require. Show me how I can care for and stand up for the rights of the poor, the fatherless, and the oppressed in my community. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 82

Psalm 81

How do you know if someone is listening to what you say?

Psalm 81 is a call for God’s people to be true listeners.

Listen, my people, and I will admonish you.
Israel, if you would only listen to me! (v. 8 CSB)

A true listener pays close attention to what is being said and who is saying it.

Psalm 81 reminds God’s people of the period after the Exodus, when God spoke to His people, Israel, to reveal Himself and His commands for holy living. The chief of God’s commands was to have no other gods other than Him, Yahweh, the LORD. Psalm 81 reminds them of this primary command. It is the LORD who rescued His people from Egypt and provided for them in the desert.

There must not be a strange god among you;
you must not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (v. 9-10 CSB)

A true listener responds to what is heard with obedience.

Psalm 81 tells us how God answers the question, “How do you if someone is listening?” God says obedience is the test of listening. True listening demands a response. Here, God says He knew His people were not listening to His voice because they did not obey Him.

“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel did not obey me.” (v. 11 CSB)

The consequences of not listening and not obeying?
God gave His people over to their stubborn hearts.

“So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own plans.” (v. 12 CSB)

Their stubborn hearts and selfish plans led them into disaster.

God’s desire is for His people to be true listeners.

“If only my people would listen to me
and Israel would follow my ways,
I would quickly subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.” (v. 13-14 CSB)

Truly listening to God leads to obedience, to following God’s ways.
God gives protection and provision to those who obey.

But he would feed Israel with the best wheat.
“I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.” (v. 16 CSB)

If only we would listen!
If only we would follow God’s ways instead of our own reasoning!

How do I know if I’m truly listening to God?
I know I’m listening if I’m obeying what He says and following His ways.

I will listen.
I will obey.
I will praise.

Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout in triumph to the God of Jacob. (v. 1 CSB)

Father, I want to hear Your voice. I want to listen to what You say. Thank You for Your written Word that teaches me Your ways. I want to follow Your ways, not my own. Help me to obey Your commands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 81

Psalm 80

Restore us.

Restore us, God;
make your face shine on us,
so that we may be saved. (v. 3 CSB)

This is the plea of Psalm 80. Repeated three times with increasing urgency, God’s people cry out in a time of national crisis, a time when God has allowed enemies to break down their walls because of the sinful choices of God’s people. The people long for God to save them and return them to a state of favor like they experienced when God saved them from Egyptian slavery.

Restore us.

Restore us, God of Armies;
make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved. (v. 7 CSB)

You are the God of Armies. You can defeat our enemies. Make Your face shine on us. We long for Your favor.

Restore us.

Restore us, LORD, God of Armies;
make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved. (v. 19 CSB)

You are LORD, Yahweh, our covenant God. You alone are our salvation. We trust the promise of Your name.

Restore us.

This is a prayer we need.

Like Israel, we may find ourselves in a time of trouble because our own sinful choices. In such times, it can seem like tears of sorrow are our only food and drink.

You fed them the bread of tears
and gave them a full measure
of tears to drink. (v. 5 CSB)

We need restoration.

We long for God’s favor, for His face to shine on us again.

We need God to save us.

Cry out to HIm. Call on His name.
He will hear your prayers.

Father, restore us. Forgive us. Save us. Defeat our enemies. Make Your face shine on us again. You are our salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Psalm 79

Because of the persistent sin of Israel, God allowed the temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed and His people to be defeated by surrounding nations.

Psalm 79 is a cry for rescue during this time of crisis.

How long?

Israel has been unfaithful to God and has suffered the consequences of sin. The psalmist asks God how long it will be until the nations that attacked Israel, nations that do not acknowledge God’s name, will also be punished.

How long, LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy keep burning like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations
that don’t acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms that don’t call on your name (v. 5-6 CSB)

Forgive us

The psalmist acknowledges Israel’s sin and asks for God’s compassion in this time of need.

Do not hold past iniquities against us;
let your compassion come to us quickly,
for we have become very weak. (v. 8 CSB)

Help us

The central cry of this psalm is a plea for God to rescue Israel, not for their sake, but for the sake of God’s name and His glory. God is the God of our salvation; He alone atones for our sin.

God of our salvation, help us—
for the glory of your name.
Rescue us and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake. (v. 9 CSB)

We will praise You

Even though Israel suffered the consequences of their sin, they are still God’s people, the sheep of His pasture. The psalm closes with a determination to declare God’s praise to future generations.

Then we, your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will thank you forever;
we will declare your praise
to generation after generation. (v. 13 CSB)

Like Israel, we also suffer painful consequences for our sin. And we too can cry out to God to rescue us for the glory of His name and can determine to declare God’s praise to future generations.

Father, forgive me for my sin against You. Help me and rescue me for the glory of Your name. You atoned, or covered, my sins on the cross. You are the God of my salvation. I will thank You forever for Your salvation and will declare Your praise to future generations. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 79

Psalm 78

If Psalm 77 is about the importance of remembering, then Psalm 78 is about the danger of forgetting.

Remembering is active.
As we recall information or an event, we are actively reinforcing that memory in our brain and making it easier to retrieve in the future.

Forgetting is passive.
When information just sits in storage in our brains, unused, it gets more difficult to find and retrieve. If you don’t use it, you risk losing it.

Faith grows when we intentionally remember God’s words and His actions.

Psalm 78 opens with a declaration of intent to recount the history of God’s faithfulness that had been passed down from generation to generation. The psalmist reminds God’s people of the responsibility to intentionally teach their children God’s ways.

I will declare wise sayings;
I will speak mysteries from the past—
things we have heard and known
and that our fathers have passed down to us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but will tell a future generation
the praiseworthy acts of the LORD,
his might, and the wondrous works
he has performed.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and set up a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children
so that a future generation—
children yet to be born—might know. (v. 2-6a CSB)

The responsibility of parents to pass down God’s instructions was first emphasized by Moses in his instructions to Israel before going into the Promised Land.

Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 CSB

Why is it so important for parents to teach their children God’s Word and tell them about the praiseworthy acts of the LORD?

Asaph gives several reasons:

* so that their children would put their confidence and hope in God
* so that their children would not forget God’s works
* so that their children would obey God’s commands
* so that their children would not rebel against God

They were to rise and tell their children
so that they might put their confidence in God
and not forget God’s works,
but keep his commands.
Then 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. (v. 6b – 8 CSB)

The danger of forgetting God’s words and His ways?
Rebellion and an unfaithful heart.

The psalmist explains this danger by retelling the story of Israel’s rebellion in the desert after God rescued them from Egypt. Despite the miracles God performed as signs during the plagues, in parting the Red Sea, and in providing food and water in the desert, Israel forgot God’s power and responded to crisis after crisis with unbelief.

Despite all this, they kept sinning
and did not believe
his wondrous works. (v. 32 CSB)

How often they rebelled against him
in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert.
They constantly tested God
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember his power shown
on the day he redeemed them from the foe,
when he performed his miraculous signs in Egypt
and his wonders in the territory of Zoan. (v. 40-43 CSB)

The consequences of rebellion and unbelief were severe. Many died in the desert without seeing the Promised Land. And yet, God showed compassion.

Yet he was compassionate;
he atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them.
He often turned his anger aside
and did not unleash all his wrath. (v. 38 CSB)

Later, when God’s people were living in the Promised Land, they continued to rebel, carving images of other gods and worshiping them at high places. Again, the consequences were severe.

He surrendered his people to the sword
because he was enraged with his heritage. (v. 62 CSB)

By retelling what happened to Israel – God’s miraculous rescue and israel’s rebellion – the psalmist cautions us all.

Forgetting what God has done can lead to rebellion.
Rebelling against God has serious consequences.

Forgetting is a dangerous thing.

We must be intentional about remembering what God has done.

Remembering helps us put our hope in God.
Remembering helps us obey God’s instructions.
Remembering keeps us from rebelling.

And we must teach the next generation God’s words and His ways so they too can put their hope in God.

Father, You are God Most High, my Redeemer. Thank You for atoning for my sins. I do not want to forget what You have done and rebel. I want to have a faithful heart and to obey Your commands. Help me to always remember the wonders You have done. I want to be intentional in telling the next generation of your wondrous works so they might put their hope in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

**Today’s picture is of my Grandma pointing out her favorite verse to my kids. I took this picture about a year before my Grandma died. It is one of my treasures.

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Psalm 77

Stress affects memory.

Stress interrupts the retrieval of information stored in memory. Test anxiety is a classic example of this. The information is there in the brain, but under stressful conditions, the information cannot be accessed when it is needed on test day [1].

In a similar way, the stress we experience during times of crisis can affect our memory, making it difficult to remember God’s goodness.

In Psalm 77, the psalmist Asaph describes a time of crisis when he was so troubled he couldn’t even speak. These questions filled his mind (v. 7-9).

* Will God reject me?
* Will God never again show His favor?
* Has God’s faithful love stopped?
* Have God’s promises ended?
* Has God forgotten me?
* Is God angry with me?

In this difficult time of stress, what did the psalmist do? He did three things:

1. He cried out to God in prayer.
2. He sought the Lord.
3. He practiced remembering.

The psalmist’s first two strategies are expected. Prayer and looking to God for answers are often first responses to crisis.

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
I sought the Lord in my day of trouble… (v. 1-2 CSB)

But why would he practice remembering?

Because stress makes it easy to forget.

In times of trouble, we desperately need to remember who God is and what He has done in order to give us hope. So we need a process that helps us overcome our forgetfulness and retrieve the truth about God.

The psalmist remembered his songs.

I consider days of old,
years long past.
At night I remember my music;
I meditate in my heart, and my spirit ponders. (v. 5-6 CSB)

Asaph wrote at least twelve of the psalms. In them, Asaph recorded what he knew to be true about God. And in difficult times, these written psalms could be read again to remind him again about who God is.

We need the truth written down.
Our memories aren’t always reliable. God knows this. The Bible is God’s truth written down so that we can always access it. We have all of Asaph’s psalms and so much more truth in the 66 books of the Bible available to us at all times.

The psalmist remembered God’s actions.

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders… (v. 11-13a ESV)

Remember God’s deeds.
Remember God’s wonders.
Ponder God’s works.
Meditate on God’s deeds.

Asaph did just that. He went on to recount the way God redeemed His people from Egypt and miraculously led them through the parted Red Sea.

Deliberately bringing to mind what God has done in the past can help us deal with the troubles of the present.

How can we practice remembering?

  • We can read God’s Word. What God did then, He can do today. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  • We can meditate on God’s Word.
  • We can listen to God’s Word.
  • We can write God’s Word on index cards or sticky notes to prompt our memory.
  • We can journal, writing down what God does for us specifically so that we can see evidence of His love when we need reminding.
  • We can tell others what God has done for us.

In our day of trouble, we can pray, we can seek God, and we can practice remembering what God has done.

And when we do, we will respond like Asaph:

What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders…

Father, I will remember Your deeds. You are the God who works wonders. You spoke the world into existence. You rescued Your people from slavery with signs and miracles. You redeemed our sins on the cross and raised Jesus from the dead. You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, forgiving sin. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 77

Psalm 76

We are entering a gift-giving season.

We generally give gifts out of two motivations: love or obligation. Choosing a gift for someone you love can be a fun adventure as you intentionally match what you know about that person with something that will bring them joy. Picking gifts for people you do not know well but are expected to include is just something else to check off the to-do list.

Psalm 76 describes God as majestic, victorious, and powerful as He judges the earth. Because of who He is, He is worthy of our praise and gifts.

Make your vows to the LORD your God
and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts
to him who is to be feared (v. 11 ESV)

What kind of gifts can we bring to the LORD?

Here are some to consider.

Love

The greatest command in both the Old and New Testaments is to love God. The second is to love others.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 CSB

One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which command is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 CSB

God desires that love motivate us, not obligation or going through the motions simply because it is expected.

For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6 CSB

Obedience

How do we love God? We obey Him.

Then Samuel said: Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 CSB

Obedience is not just a gift for God. We receive a gift in return. Jesus said that He will reveal Himself to those who obey God’s commands.

The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him. John 14:21 CSB

Worship

Worship is a gift God has requested from us.

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?” Deuteronomy 10:12 CSB

Giving ourselves to God is an act of worship.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Romans 12:1 CSB

Worship is a gift we can give continually as we confess and praise God’s name.

Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 CSB

Sing to the Lord, you his faithful ones, and praise his holy name. Psalm 30:4 CSB

Thanks

Giving thanks is God’s will for us.

Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 CSB

You are my God, and I will give you thanks. You are my God; I will exalt you.
Psalm 118:28 CSB

Give thanks to the Lord; call on his name; proclaim his deeds among the peoples. 1 Chronicles 16:8 CSB

Mercy

We have received mercy from God. When we show mercy to others, we also give to God.

“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’” Zechariah 7:9 NIV

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40 CSB

This season, whether you find choosing gifts for others a chore or a joy, make time to consider the gifts you can give the LORD your God, the awe-inspiring One.

Father, You have given me everything. I long to give back to You. I want to love You with all my heart, soul, and strength. I want to keep Your commands. I want to give You my life as an act of worship. I want to praise Your name. I want to give thanks in everything. And I want to show mercy and compassion to others. You are worthy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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