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.

psalm 76

Psalm 75

We give thanks to you, God;
we give thanks to you, for your Name is near.
People tell about your wondrous works. (v. 1 CSB)

In times of chaos or suffering and pain, it is a comfort to have someone near, to know we are not alone.

The psalmist gives thanks to God, saying “Your Name is near.” To say “Your Name is near” is more than saying a friend is near or even saying God is near. “God” can mean different things to different people. If you believe God to be impersonal and passive, what difference does it make if He is near?

So who is this God whose Name is near?

Our understanding of God’s Name determines our ability to truly appreciate His presence.

God’s Name is His character, His promise, and His presence.

We have to go back to Exodus to begin to understand the significance of God’s Name.

God reveals His covenant Name.

God first revealed His covenant Name, YHWH (Yahweh), to Moses at the burning bush, where God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt to free His people from slavery.

Moses had two big questions about his assignment.

The first was, “Who am I that I should go?”
God responded, “I will be with you”.

But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.” Exodus 3:11-12 CSB

The second question Moses asked was, “What is Your name?”
God replied, “I AM” and “The LORD, the God of your fathers.”

Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”

God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 CSB

Equipped with the promise of God’s presence and God’s Name, Moses obeyed God and went to Egypt. Moses and the Israelites witnessed God’s miraculous power, provision, and love as God miraculously rescued His people from Egyptian slavery, as God led them through the Red Sea on dry land, and as they followed God through the desert.

During the desert journey, Moses spent time with God on the mountain, receiving God’s instructions for how His people should live and worship. Moses came down from the mountaintop carrying the 10 commandments God wrote on tablets of stone, ready to share the loving terms of God’s covenant with His people.

Instead of finding God’s people waiting in faith and anticipation for his return, Moses found the people in a state of chaos and rebellion, worshipping a golden calf. Angry and heartbroken, Moses returned to the mountaintop.

God explains His covenant Name.

Exodus 33 and 34 record an intimate conversation between God and Moses upon Moses’ return to the mountaintop.

God told Moses that, despite His people’s rebellion, He was prepared to fulfill His promise to His people to give them the Promised Land. However, the devastating consequence of Israel’s rebellion while Moses was on the mountain was this: God would not go with them. Instead, He would send an angel to accompany them to the Promised Land.

Moses interceded for himself and the Israelites.

Moses said to the LORD, “Look, you have told me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor with me.’ Now if I have indeed found favor with you, please teach me your ways, and I will know you, so that I may find favor with you. Now consider that this nation is your people.” Exodus 33:12-13 CSB

Moses prized his relationship with God over access to God’s resources. He wanted to know God more than He wanted escape from the desert or prosperity. He knew that God’s presence was what set the Israelites apart from all other people.

God answered Moses and promised His presence.

And he [God] replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

But Moses wasn’t finished asking.

Then Moses said, “Please, let me see your glory.” Exodus 33:19 CSB

Moses discovered that God’s glory is His goodness and His Name.

He [God] said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name ‘the LORD’ before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:20 CSB

God revealed His covenant Name, YHWH (Yahweh), to Moses at the burning bush. On the mountain, God explained His Name to Moses.

The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, “the LORD [YHWH, Yahweh].” The LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed:

The LORD —the LORD is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

Moses immediately knelt low on the ground and worshiped. Exodus 33:5-8 CSB

What Is Moses’ response to God’s glory and His Name?
Worship.

God’s Name is near.

The revelation and explanation of God’s Name that Moses received influences all of the remainder of God’s Word – The LORD. Yahweh. I AM. Every time you see the word LORD in all capital letters, it refers to God’s covenant name.

The truths about God’s character contained in His Name are repeated throughout the Bible.

How do we know God is love? His Name.
How do we know God is slow to anger? His Name.
How do we know God is faithful and compassionate? His Name.
How do we know God forgives? His Name.
How do we know God is a God of justice? His Name.

This is why the psalmist doesn’t simply say God is near.

The psalmist specifically says “your Name is near”. God’s Name – His character, His presence, and His promise – is near, right beside you.

Do we grasp the significance of God’s covenant Name?
His Name is Who He is, Who He will be, and what He will do to bring us home.

We know that I AM became Immanuel, God with us. Jesus became one of us, experienced every temptation on this broken planet, but lived a perfect life without sin. His death on the cross paid for our sins and made a relationship with God [Yahweh] possible. His resurrection gave us power to live a God-pleasing life. His name is above every name.

When we know God’s Name is near, we know God is not near simply to give silent witness to our suffering. He is near to show His perfect love, HIs compassion, His grace, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, and His justice.

Right where you are, God’s Name is near.
He is near to you in every moment.
He is everything you need.

We give thanks to you, God;
we give thanks to you, for your Name is near…. (v. 1 CSB)

Father, thank You that Your Name is near. You are Yahweh, our covenant God. Thank You for Your love, compassion, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice. You are Immanuel, God with us. Thank You for Your presence. Please teach me Your ways so that I can know You more and more. You are everything I need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 75

Psalm 74

None of us knows how long this will last…

In the aftermath of a disaster, none of us can predict a timetable for recovery. Questions and remembering mark the path of those who suffer.

Psalm 74 is a cry of pain after disaster. God’s people are crying out to Him with their questions after the temple has been cruelly destroyed by Israel’s enemies.

Why?

Isn’t this the primary question after disaster? Why did it happen? Why didn’t God prevent it?

When the temple, the special place where God met with His people, was destroyed, the psalmist says it felt like God was angry and had rejected His people.

Why have you
rejected us forever, God?
Why does your anger burn
against the sheep of your pasture? (v. 1 CSB)

Remember us.

The psalmist pleads with God to remember His chosen people, Israel, and His chosen place, Mount Zion.

Remember your congregation,
which you purchased long ago
and redeemed as the tribe
for your own possession.
Remember Mount Zion
where you dwell. (v. 2 CSB)

Help us.

The psalmist then asks God to make his way to the place of disaster, the temple ruins. The psalmist describes the cruelty of the enemy in destroying “the dwelling place of your name”, the place “where God met with us.”

How long?

How long is another signpost question after disaster. How long will this last? When will God step in?

In destroying the temple, Israel’s enemies mocked and insulted God’s name. The psalmist wants to know how long the enemy will get away with it and why it seems God is holding back His hand and not punishing the enemy. There are no signs or words from God to indicate how long the disaster will last or how long the enemy will escape punishment.

There are no signs for us to see.
There is no longer a prophet.
And none of us knows how long
this will last. (v. 9 CSB)

I will remember.

But while there are no signs or new words through a prophet, the psalmist reminds the people of Israel of what they DO know: who God is what God has already done on their behalf.

God my King is from ancient times,
performing saving acts on the earth. (v. 12 CSB)

The psalmist reminds God’s people that God is King. He is a God of salvation. He has performed saving acts on behalf of His people. And He has authority over all creation.

The day is yours, also the night;
you established the moon and the sun.
You set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made summer and winter. (v. 14 CSB)

Even in times of disaster, the daily movement of the moon and sun and the changing of the seasons are reminders of God’s power and authority over all.

Remember the enemy.

In addition to asking God to remember His people, the psalmist leads the congregation in asking God to remember that the enemy has mocked Him and insulted His name.

Don’t forget us.

Remember. Don’t forget. Two sides of the same request: that God would be attentive to His people in this time of disaster.

Rise up!

The psalmist concludes with a cry for God to rise up and defend His cause, to remember the insult of the enemy and act on behalf of His people.

The honesty of the psalms is a help in difficult times.

In the psalms, we see ourselves and our emotions. We are reminded that questions like “Why?” and “How long?” are normal after disaster strikes.

We also see the power of remembering:

Asking God to remember His people, to protect us.
Asking God to remember to punish the enemy.
And choosing to remember who God is, what He has promised, and what He has done in the past to give us strength while we recover.

None of us knows how long this will last, but thanks to God’s Word, we know what to do while we wait.

Father, remember me. Don’t forget me. Come to my aid. Stop the work of the enemy. You are God my King. Thank You for the predictable patterns in the seasons and the moon and sun that remind me of Your power over all things, even when life is anything but predictable. I choose to praise Your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Psalm 73

Perspective.

It’s about how you see things.

In art, perspective refers to the “painting or drawing a scene so that objects in it seem to have their right shape and to be the right distance apart”, according to Merriam-Webster.

Merriam-Webster also gives an interesting background of artistic perspective.

…before the 1400s paintings simply lacked accurate perspective. Instead, important people and objects were simply shown larger than less important ones; and although distant objects were sometimes shown smaller than near ones, this wasn’t done in a regular and accurate way.

Without perspective, things sometimes appear bigger than they really are. A reference point is needed to make sense of what you see.

Perspective can also mean your point of view of circumstances or issues. Just as in art, without a reference point, it can be difficult to make sense of what is happening.

Psalm 73 is about perspective.

It starts with a declaration of truth: God is good to the pure in heart.

But…

Instead of focusing on this truth, the psalmist looks around at the prosperity of the wicked. The wicked seem to have an easy time, to have plenty of food, to have no troubles, to say whatever they want without consequences, and to grow more and more wealthy.

Envy creeps into the psalmist’s heart and makes him question:

Did I purify my heart
and wash my hands in innocence
for nothing? (v. 13 CSB)

Comparing his life of trouble to the life of ease of the wicked, the psalmist wonders: Is it worth it to follow God? No matter how hard he tried on his own, he could not understand why the wicked seemed to prosper.

With his focus on others, all seemed hopeless.

Until…

His perspective changed.

How?

He entered God’s sanctuary.

When I tried to understand all this,
it seemed hopeless
until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their [the wicked] destiny. (v. 17 CSB)

In God’s presence, the psalmist’s focus changes. In worship, he begins to see things from God’s vantage point instead of his own.

Worship leads us to an eternal perspective.

God is the reference point we need to make sense of the world around us.

With God’s perspective, the psalmist is able to see the eventual destiny of the wicked – destruction and separation. The prosperity of the wicked became a tiny thing compared to the vastness of their ultimate separation from God.

And with God’s vantage point, the psalmist is able to truly prize God’s reward for the pure in heart.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me up in
glory. (v. 23-24 CSB)

The pure in heart enjoy God’s presence, God’s guidance, and God’s counsel while they walk through the difficulties of this life. And they will enjoy God’s presence forever in heaven.

The psalmist expresses his newfound perspective in these verses.

Who do I have in heaven but you?
And I desire nothing on earth but you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever. (v. 25-26 CSB)

All the wealth of the wicked? Worldy wealth isn’t the big deal it appears to be. It’s nothing compared to the riches found in God’s presence. Troubles threatening my health and my emotions? God is my provision and the strength of my heart.

With an eternal perspective, God becomes our heart’s only desire.

The psalmist closes with a truth and a declaration of intent.

But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all you do. (v. 28)

Truth: God’s presence is my good.
The psalmist began this psalm by declaring that God is good to the pure in heart. He closes by personalizing this truth. God’s presence is MY good.

Intent: I will make God my refuge so that I can tell others about all that God does. The psalmist chooses to make God’s perspective his own and devotes himself to telling others about God’s goodness.

When our perspective is clouded by comparison and envy, we cannot see our circumstances clearly. When we worship, our perspective changes.

We need eternal perspective.
We can only get it in God’s presence.
And when we have experienced God’s presence, nothing else can compare.

Father, nothing on earth can compare to the joy of Your presence. I want to desire nothing but You. When I am tempted to compare my circumstances to others, help me choose to worship instead. Thank you that You are always with me. Thank You for your guidance and counsel, and thank You that You will one day take me to glory. Be the strength of my heart today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 73

Psalm 72

Psalm 72 is a prayer for Israel’s king, that he would rule with justice and righteousness.

As Israel prayed for her king, we too can pray for our leaders.

May they:

* judge with righteousness
* defend the afflicted
* help the poor
* crush the oppressor
* allow righteous people to flourish
* have pity on the poor and helpless
* deliver the needy
* save the lives of the poor
* rescue the weak from violence
* be respected by other leaders

This psalm closes with a doxology of praise to the LORD, our covenant keeping God.

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does wonders.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
the whole earth is filled with his glory.
Amen and amen. (v. 18-19 CSB)

Father, I pray for those in positions of authority in the workplace, in my church, in my city, and in my country. Give them Your view of justice. Let them lead with righteousness, defend the poor and the helpless, punish oppressors, and rescue the weak from violence. Let Your people flourish under the authority of just leaders. Blessed be Your glorious name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Psalm 72

Psalm 71

Years ago, I experienced a time of despair and brokenness. In my desperation, I grabbed my Bible and left early for the evening worship service at my church. As I sat alone and waited for the service to begin, I searched my Bible frantically for answers, scanning the Psalms hoping to find words for my heart’s prayer.

One verse stood out.

But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
Psalm 71:14

I kept looking.

I didn’t have hope. I didn’t feel like praising. I needed relief.

I wanted a verse to point me to a specific action or a powerful prayer that would resolve my circumstances.

Nothing.

I kept coming back to Psalm 71:14.

But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

As I read this verse over and over, I knew God was speaking to me. It was as if this verse was in English and all the surrounding verses were in a foreign language I could not read.

I have to be honest.
I wanted a different message.
I wanted a guarantee that everything would work out like I wanted it. I wanted to know how long it would take before life returned to the normal I knew before.

The message I truly needed, however, was there in Psalm 71:14.

I felt hopeless, like my life was falling apart.
God’s Word said I could hope anyway, without feeling hopeful. Hope was something I had as a gift from God and could not be destroyed by life’s blows.

I felt crushed by pain.
God’s Word said I could choose to worship anyway.

That night, in my desperation, I chose to act on the truth before I felt it was true.
I hoped anyway.
I worshipped anyway.

It was the beginning of a season of learning to place my hope in God, not in changing circumstances, of learning to worship based on who God is, not how I felt.

My circumstances did not change right away. However, in the months that followed, hope and worship did their work in my heart. My focus shifted. I wanted to grow in my relationship with God more than I wanted relief. Hope and worship became my first response to difficulty, not my last resort.

Now, when I read Psalm 71, I am able to put verse 14 into the bigger context of this prayer for rescue.

I am able to give testimony to the truth of verse 20:

Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.

And I long for verse 18 to shape the purpose of my days:

Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, O God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come.

Life hurts.
But as for me, I will always have hope.

Bitter troubles come our way, but restoration is possible.
You will restore my life again.

I will choose to worship.
I will praise you more and more.

I will choose to give testimony to God’s strength.
I will declare your power to the next generation.

Hope.
Worship.
Restoration.
Purpose.

No matter what happens, these cannot be taken away.

Father, thank You for giving me hope. When life is hard, I will hope anyway. I will worship anyway. You are my rock of refuge to which I can always go. Thank You that You will restore my life again. For all of my days, I will tell others about Your power and goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 71

Psalm 70

Psalm 70 is a 911 prayer for God’s help.
Only five verses long, this psalm begins and ends with a cry for God to hurry to the rescue.

In times of crisis, we want help to be in a hurry to reach us.

God, hurry to rescue me.
Lord, hurry to help me! (v. 1 CSB)

In times of crisis, we want help to arrive without any delay.

I am oppressed and needy;
hurry to me, God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Lord, do not delay. (v. 5 CSB)

And in times of crisis, we don’t have time for lengthy explanations.
911 prayers are short, direct calls for help.

Help!
Hurry!
Don’t delay!

Father, You are my help and my deliverer. Hurry to rescue me! Please don’t delay. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 70