Psalm 137–Simply, Too Much Pain

Sadly, not every story has a happy ending.  The psalmist in Psalm 137 is in pain.  He is a captive of Nebuchadnezzar. He is thinking back of all Judah had lost–their nation, their homeland and their identity. As they lived as captives, their enemies rejoiced and taunted them.  Their captors made them celebrate–being vanquished! All of life had lost its luster.  So, as he sat and reflected on what was and what might have been; the psalmist was simply living in pain.  It was a pain of feeling alone and unprotected by a God that had faithfully protected them for many many years.  Sure, losing their stuff was horrific–but, losing their identity and returning to captivity was so much worse.

In our lives, life can be very difficult. Money issues, job issues and life issues can turn our attention inward; and cause us to lose focus.  Instead of being grateful for what we have, we become ungrateful for what we do not have. God calls us to be content in all circumstances and look to Him to lead us, guide us and protect us through even the most difficult of times.  When we find our lives vanquished, we still must focus our attention on him.  If we do, we can face life’s great sadness with hope that he will ultimately deliver us from the pain.  We can never lose hope! We must remember–as God promised in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you says the Lord! Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”  Give me the faith, Lord to focus on you and your plan for me!

God Bless You

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

Psalm 136–His Love Endures Forever

This has to be one of my favorite psalms.  The psalmist wrote this psalm as a compilation of the things Israel could be thankful for.  Here, the God of the universe–time after time, took matters in hand and cared for those He loved.  No issue too small, no matter too hard, no time too early or too late! God, our Father was there to love and care for His chosen people.

The best part of the psalm is the refrain–“His Love Endures Forever!!!!!” (with emphasis).  That phrase acts like a life vest in a storm.  It keeps us afloat in the worst of times.  Like the psalmist, we need to grasp, that while things in our lives may change, one thing does not–“His Love Endures Forever!” That promise brought Jesus from Heaven to earth in human form to show us God’s true nature, and to restore the relationship between God and people.  What a great gift, and a beautiful picture of the fact that His love truly endures forever.

Our response is simple–follow His lead, seek His face, and trust the fact that not only does His love endure forever–it endures forever–FOR US! We are the reason that He gave His life, sent his spirit to guide us and prepared a place for us in Heaven.  In short, one thing remains clear–“His Love Endures Forever!!!”

God Bless You

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

Psalm 135–What Makes God Great?

When we talk about God’s greatness we can look at the wonder of the universe.  Its expanse, its complexity and even its beauty tell the story of our Great God.  But, Life’s wonders are also a marker for us to be amazed and grateful for God.  As we have advanced in our knowledge, we continue to see the intricacy and symmetry that allows this world to survive the ravages of nature, and the continued wear and tear billions of people and countless animals make on this old rock. Still one sunrise, a field of flowers or the grace of an eagle all remind us how our Creator carefully designed his master work.

But, the psalmist focuses on a different aspect of His greatness–God’s protection and His integrity.  He acknowledges that, as the master of the universe, God can do whatever He pleases.  What pleased him the most–was to bring His chosen to the place He had prepared for them.  He painstakingly freed them from their masters, protected them from their enemies and delivered them to their inheritance.  All the while, patiently enduring their stubborn and independent nature.

What a mighty God we serve. Even now, as the world continues in chaos, He provides peace, provision, direction and hope.  He simply asks that we trust him and follow his lead.  He has led his chosen for thousands of years and still desires to so today.  If we will allow it, He will make the life we have on earth full and purposeful; and prepare us for an eternal and wonderful life with him. In short, all His amazing qualities are on display–but His loving kindness is everlasting and peace and provision is unmatched! That is what makes Him great to me!!!

God Bless You

I know that the Lord is great,

    that our Lord is greater than all gods.
The Lord does whatever pleases him,
    in the heavens and on the earth,
    in the seas and all their depths.
He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
    he sends lightning with the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    the firstborn of people and animals.
He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
    against Pharaoh and all his servants.
10 He struck down many nations
    and killed mighty kings—
11 Sihon king of the Amorites,
    Og king of Bashan,
    and all the kings of Canaan—
12 and he gave their land as an inheritance,
    an inheritance to his people Israel.

13 Your name, Lord, endures forever,
    your renown, Lord, through all generations.
14 For the Lord will vindicate his people
    and have compassion on his servants.

Psalm 134–Praise God For Ministry

What a great Gift to be able to minister for the Lord.  The psalmist is clear, brief and to the point. Those who minister need to praise the Lord.  It is a gift and an honor to set your life on the alter and minister to others. To be called by our Lord to pour into hos people is an amazing gift. 

Make no mistake, however, such an undertaking is neither easy nor is it always rewarding.  Ministers are always under scrutiny, their families are always under scrutiny. They are underpaid and overworked.  They deal with volunteers that are human and needy. In short ministry is no picnic.  Still, at the end of the day, ministers do so because they love it.  Most would never do anything else.  It is a calling to serve that is full of reward and joy. 

Whether professional or volunteer, we need to take the opportunities in our lives and minister.  We also need to raise our hands in praise that God thinks enough of us to let us do so!

God Bless You

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
    who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
    and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
    he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

 

Psalm 133–Unity of Believers

It is an amazing wonder to all, when God’s people stand together.  It would seem like a “no-brainer”, since the rest of the world stands against God and his people, it would only make sense that his folks would stand together as one. Sadly, that is rarely the case. 

The church is notorious for being at  odds with one another. Nationally, regionally and locally; bodies of believers stand at odds with each other over issues both large and small.  David, knew the importance of his people’ and God’s people in general, walking together. it is a fragrant offering. We are a picture of faith–so, when we walk together, it shows the world that God is in charge. 

Conversely, when we are at odds with each other, it makes us look petty and foolish. We do not show the selflessness of our faith–instead we show the selfishness of the world. We are called to be different–set apart. Nothing will set us apart more than the selfless unity we have when we stand together for the Lord.  It is truly a wonder. In those times, when we are unified, God can and does do amazing things through us.  We need to seek him, and as we do, we will stand as one in unity. There are few sights any more wonderful than that.  

God Bless You

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

Psalm 132–David’s Heir will Occupy the Throne

God was clear, David’s heir will occupy the throne of God’s chosen people. God keeps His word. What the psalmist may not have known–but correctly prophesied, was that the throne of Zion would be forever occupied by Jesus.

 When Christ came, as the ancestor of David, it was no accident. God knew from the dawn of time that the throne was an eternal one; and, His son would occupy it.  It was, however, this prophecy that caused confusion among the Jews– when Jesus came.  The Jewish people were looking for a physical champion to come and lead Israel back to a place of national prominence.

God’s plan for Israel was so much higher. He was not setting up a physical throne; for a warrior king, to rule the world. Instead, he was building an alter for a Messiah–to restore the nation of priests, and bring fellowship back between God and men. He was preparing to empty Himself of Himself; so that he could make the only lasting sacrifice–to save men from themselves and their sin. Jesus was that sacrifice. 

  When Christ died that horrible death–it was simply to rise as the source of redemption for us all. When He rose, he defeated the final enemies of men–death and sin.  Once that was completed–Paul says it best, “Then God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him a name that was above every name.  So, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow; in heaven, on earth and below the earth; and, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord–to the Glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.  

The Lord swore an oath to David–a sure oath that He will not revoke!

God Bless You

For the sake of your servant David,
do not reject your anointed one.

11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit
on your throne for ever and ever.”

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
15 I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor I will satisfy with food.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

17 “Here I will make a horn[b] grow for David
and set up a lamp for my anointed one

Psalm 131–Content and at Peace

Learning to be content in the Lord is one of life’s most difficult lessons. Nothing in culture encourages us to be content. Yet, whether pauper or king; learning to be content brings peace.  King David spent a portion of his life as a shepherd, as a warrior, as a fugitive; then as a King. In every circumstance, David kept one thing consistent–he sought the Lord to meet his needs.

Still, even David made decisions to “help God out”–when he did, David’s peace was gone, and his life was a mess.  David was unique, however, even when he walked away from God–it was not long, until he repented and returned to rest in the Lord.  In his latter years, David learned to rest in the Lord, rely upon the Lord and remember God’s power and wisdom.  He became a humble king, ready to lead and teach his people who was truly in charge of their nation. That, not the battles, the conquests or the treasures–is what made David Israel’s greatest king.

In our lives, we are also faced with the daily choice of being content or not.  It is not as much an economic issue as it is a spiritual one.  When one is poor, there is always a desire to not have to strive to survive. In the midst of that, however, comes the realization that it is God that provides for all our needs. Conversely, in wealth, men tend to become self-sufficient and self-assured. There is a sense that we can always have more and make more. That is the dangerous place–where pride and desire for more takes away our peace and dependence on God.  God simply calls us to be content and to trust him. If we will do that–no matter what our circumstance; then, He will grant us peace and calm in the midst of the chaotic storm that is our world. Thanks Lord, for Your peace. 

God Bless You

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

Psalm 130–Amazing Grace

We all understand the amazing power it takes to create and manage a universe…God said let there be light, and there was light. He formed stars and planets. He filled the earth with life and created people to care for it. He has built and destroyed empires–He is  a mighty God! Still, it is his grace and mercy that sets him apart and allows us to know and follow him.  

The psalmist knew that–He did not cry out from the depths for God’s power–he cried out for God’s mercy.  The psalmist knew that only God’s grace and mercy could restore the broken relationship between men and God.  We have all sinned. We have all tried countless times to run our own lives and be our own boss–all with less than stellar result.  

Still, even before Christ’s sacrifice, men of God knew that the relationship could be restored by God’s mercy.  That mercy has transcended time, space and culture and has allowed us–black-hearted and flawed, to be restored into relationship with God.  The fact that a holy God can fellowship with a “wretch” like me, is truly amazing, amazing grace.  So as his chosen, we need to not only respect God’s almighty power; but, like the psalmist, we need to accept and be grateful for God’s amazing grace and mercy.

God Bless You

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

Psalm 129–Press On

The psalmist was probably writing this Psalm during the reign of the Medes & Persians. The Children of Israel (Judah) were in captivity in Babylon and Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls. It was in this time of immanent release–that the psalmist could see God’s plan unfolding.

The point of  the psalm is to remind the reader–that, while God allowed trials in their lives, the enemies will ultimately be defeated, and God’s people will be victorious.  The time frames for that victory could be slower most would like, but, training takes time and perfecting his saints–not comfort, is God’s top priority.  It is similar to a heavy weight prizefighter–while training; the fighter is pushed to the limit…day-in and day-out. He may face dozens of sparing partners each day; all with the goal of exposing weakness and correcting mistakes.  Still, all the training has a purpose–which is simply victory in the scheduled fight.

Israel and christian alike, face battle after battle each day. The endless number of trials and temptations are like sparing partners for the prize fighter. Each has a unique quality, that tests a different component of our faith and daily walk.  We see our greatest foes in the areas of our greatest weakness. Still, at the end of the day, we will be victorious. We will stand as champions in the shadow of Christ. But, as Paul promised in Philippians 1:6–“He who has begun a good work in you will carry to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” My friend Jeff Cathey closes each conversation with the same phrase–Press On, and that is not only a great encouragement; it is God’s urging for us–His Chosen!

God Bless You

They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”

    let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
    and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous;
    he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”

May all who hate Zion
    be turned back in shame.
May they be like grass on the roof,
    which withers before it can grow;
a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
    nor one who gathers fill his arms.
May those who pass by not say to them,
    “The blessing of the Lord be on you;
    we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 128–Reverence Leads to Legacy

Psalm 128 is a lovely blessing given to those that fear the Lord.  Having a great and healthy reverence for who God is– brings peace  to our lives.  We are happy to seek him; but, there is little in the culture that would encourage a right reverence for Him. The Psalmist, also dealt with that issue.  Israel was reputed, by God, to be a stiff-necked people.  They were stubborn, they were disgruntled, and they were not always reverent to the Lord.  

As a nation, they saw God clear the land and hand it over to them. He led, fed and protected them for over 40 years. Once he handed them the gift, they started to pull away. As they were less dependent upon him for the basic elements of life–food, water, protection, health and guidance; the people became less reverent, more independent and more stiff-necked. 

The result was never good and often found the people back in bondage and slavery.  But, if a person would continue to trust and follow God–that reverence often freed them from the silly things that would entrap them. Things like a need for stuff, power or notoriety. One would realize they were accepted and a  part of a plan that would bring them hope and a legacy.

In our world, the struggle remains real.  Everything pulls at us to chase the fleeting rewards offered by the world. Only those that seek God realize that he gives us the peace, confidence and the purposeful life we long for. If we will trust Him–He will give us what we need and leave for us a legacy, through those we touch and those we raise, that will point back to His leadership and to our love and focus upon Him.

God Bless You

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion;
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
    peace be on Israel.