Here’s the last installment! It starts on Monday the 21st and ends on the 27th…
Devotionals for Week Three (January 21st to the 27th)
This Psalm is described as a “Psalm of Asaph,” and as such, we start the third large section of the Psalms. Asaph is a worship leader a chief musician and he apparently wrote the first 11 psalms in this section.
It starts out with a conclusion: “Truly God is good to Israel, to such who are pure in heart.” And as you read through the psalm you realize that it came only after a great struggle. Asaph looked at the wicked, some of them anyway, and started to compare his life situation as a God follower to the well-to-do ungodly of his day. He started to think, “Why should I follow God if the ungodly seem to do so well?” And then he goes to the sanctuary (vs. 17) and he wakes up. Ah, You’ve put them in “slippery places,” Lord! How could I be so foolish to think that living an ungodly life would go unnoticed by You and lead to ultimate prosperity! He ends up knowing that God Himself is the greatest treasure and that God is, by choice and by nature, “the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” That was verse 26.
So where do you invest yourself? Is it in the world, the treasures, riches and distractions of the world or are you all invested in God Himself? And from what vantage point do you observe life? If it’s from the television or other media, you won’t see well, but if it’s from the sanctuary you’ll see clearly the end result of living far away from God. Make the choice today. I will “put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works.”
Interesting to note, this psalm is a psalm of the “Sons of Korah,” either written for them to sing or written by them. Do you remember Korah? He and others rebelled against Moses in the wilderness and the ground opened up and swallowed them! God didn’t hold the sins of the father against the children, though, as the sons of Korah continued on as singers, worshippers in the Temple. And here’s their song. It’s all about the Presence of God in the place of worship. And their desperate longing to be there.
Verse 2 says, “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God.”
Question: Is that how you feel? Do you really long for the Presence of God, His “courts,” and do you really care about being with Him, to the point of longing and fainting? If you do, then you’ll do this: you’ll make every effort to be with Him. You’ll pray continually. You’ll worship with abandon. You’ll actually be early for worship on Sunday and your heart will be ready for what He’s going to do and say that day.
We often sing, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” We need to wrestle with our hearts and lives until that desperation to be with Him is seen in the reality of our lives. Do we really mean what we sing?
This is another Psalm dedicated to the wrestlings of the righteous over the “triumph” of the wicked. It never seems to end, does it? The folks who get away with wrong are the ones who say that God “does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand.” He doesn’t pay any attention to what goes on here and you’re on your own.
Ever feel like that? Of course you have. Most people I know have suffered abandonment in some important way and have been left on their own. You’re going to have to fend for yourself. In high school hallways, in the locker room, on an athletic field, in college life, in business life, you need to come up with your own answers, especially when it comes to oppressors. From bullies to bosses to nasty neighbors, you have to figure out how to deal with them.
But it’s not really that way. Verses 8-11 say that God not only sees the affairs of your life, but acts. He even knows the thoughts of man, and thinks they’re futile in the light of His sovereignty. He teaches us how to live and then enforces righteousness in the world. Let the knowledge that God is at work in your life situations, especially when it comes to the difficult ones out of your control, comfort you. Put your faith and trust in Him. Read the last verse. He’s your Defender.
I have to tell you, this is one of my favorite Psalms. I take great comfort from this one and encourage everyone who struggles with life and themselves to read it and memorize portions of it. It starts out with David’s spirit directing his soul: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name! And then he goes on and on about what God has done for him, forgiving inquities (sin), healing diseases and redeeming life from destruction, for example. All throughout this psalm are listed the benefits of being a God follower, a believer, one made righteous by God and adopted as a son.
And so, when I run across a believer who wonders how God feels about him or her, I point them to this Psalm. Especially verses 10-14. The words are so lofty, so grand and descriptive that I feel like I’m standing on a mountain and having my breath taken away by the view. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Really, that far? That forgiven? His mercy that great? Yes, and then these words: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
When it says that God “pities” us, what does that mean? It means that like the deep emotion I feel toward my own children, that moves me to tears and brings me to action on their behalf, God feels the same way, only better.
If you doubt God’s love, read this psalm. He absolutely loves those who are His and with a magnificence that only He possesses, cares and acts on their behalf. That’s you. Believe Him. And bookend your life, like this psalm, with the phrase, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”
This psalm contains the middle verse of the Bible. In other words, if you counted up, numerically, all the verses in the Book, then went for the center one, you’d find it here. Verse 8, that center verse, says “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Hmm, fitting theme to the whole Bible, eh?
It’s also something like the National Anthem of ancient Israel. When Ezra dedicated the rebuilt Temple after the captivity, the beginning and ending verses (and we assume the middle ones also!) were read: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
This is an important song for spiritual Israel too, the church. Notice in verses 22-24 the quote taken by the New Testament: “The stone (Jesus) which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
But let’s finally focus on verse 25. “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray send now prosperity.” The words, “save now” are really one word in the Hebrew: “Hosanna.” Remember when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem? The people who were there shouted “Hosanna!” when he came through. Save now. Are you or any one else you know, struggling? Needing help to get through and not knowing how to “prosper” your purposes, your life? Cry out to Jesus, “Hosanna!” He is the fulfillment of this verse and the whole of the Psalms.
We’re nearing the end of our fast and this is the second to last Psalm of our devotional!
This psalm is bookended with praise to God and literally, this is a psalm of praise in every way. As a matter of fact, these last psalms are dedicated to just that, praise! Is your life dedicated to the praise of God, so that when people get to know you, they themselves praise God?
I love verse 5 in this psalm: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” You are in the right place in life, if God is your God. But are you happy? If someone looked at you, would they be thinking, “Man, that guy, gal, is so happy!,” or would they be thinking you look like you’ve been sucking lemons? If you have God as your God, circumstances might be tough, but you’re happy inside. You know that God is going to come through for you, carry you, no matter how humble your circumstances. Just look at what He does for the downtrodden of the world, in verses 7-9.
Be happy today that He is your God or else make Him your God today and become happy!
Ah, here we are at the end of our 21 days of praying and fasting to seek the Living God! And it’s fitting that we end with Psalm 139. This psalm has a remarkable message: wherever you’ve been, even from the womb, to wherever you could be, God not only sees you but actively forms and carries you. In verse 17 it says “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. In other words, God thinks of you all the time. Good thoughts, precious Fatherly thoughts, thoughts that move Him to act on my behalf.
This psalm is precious to those who don’t like themselves in some way. Did you realize today that God Himself made you the way you are? He formed us, then fashioned a number of days for us. You are designed by a perfect Designer! For His purposes and plans in the earth. Your days are written in a book that God wrote.
God has a plan for you this year. You have been constructed to perfectly fit that plan. It’s a fun plan, a significant plan, a fruitful plan, a life filled plan. Accept your design. Thank Him for making you the way you were designed. And ask Him to show you the plan. He thinks about you all the time and when God thinks, He purposes good for you. Trust Him.