Devotions In Psalms

Walking in Light

Psalm 97
Light is shed upon the righteous (v. 11).

When I lived in sin, Lord, I walked in darkness, where the nature of things was obscured. Then You shone upon my heart, undeceiving me. I saw You, and others, and myself, and was appalled by the contrast between divine holiness and human sin--my sin especially. I repented, You forgave, and I am walking in the light.

In Your light I see that You reign as "Most High over all the earth." I am not in the grip of heartless and senseless fate. You are in charge of my life. That greatly comforts and inspires me.

In Your light I see that "The heavens proclaim" Your "righteousness and...glory." Because You are righteous, evil is doomed. By "your judgments" the wicked will be overthrown and the "upright in heart" will be rewarded.

In Your light I see that moral triumph depends upon Your grace, not upon my strength. You deliver those who are faithful to You. You consume Your foes "on every side."

Yes, in Your light I rejoice and praise Your name!

Joy-creating Works

Psalm 98.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things (v. 1).

A new song for new things! Lord, You have not retired. Your wonders are not confined to ancient history. Victories for Your people continue. That they are not universally recognized and celebrated testifies to human blindness, not to divine inactivity. Truth is, Lord, Your mighty works have only been reported by persons with eyes of faith in any period of history.

To those who trust in You, Your marvelous deeds invoke praise. Your righteousness produces joy in Your people. The world reacts to them in anger and with denial. The pagan world's reportage of the Exodus and of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ has always been marked by ingenious explanations of natural events coupled with superstition and credulity. Those who deny and disbelieve pour contempt upon those who "sing before the Lord" in joyous thanksgiving and praise. There have always been men of Roman guard mentality who will spread a lie for a price rather than embrace the truth and be saved.

Meanwhile, You have "worked salvation" and You will come "to judge the earth." That keeps Your people singing despite the world's contempt and opposition. I'm glad to be among those singers.

A Holy King

Psalm 99
…he is holy…he is holy…. The Lord our God is holy (vv. 3, 5, 9).

"The Lord reigns." That You are holy, Lord, is what makes Your reign worthy of celebrating in worship and with praise. Our wretched earth has been cursed with so many unholy rulers and leaders! They have oppressed the poor, exploiting them to make themselves wealthier and more powerful. That One reigns who is "exalted over all the nations," yet "loves justice," is good news.

Exalted and mighty, You are nevertheless accessible to us, even to me. Moses, Aaron, and Samuel called on Your name and You answered them. They obeyed Your statutes, which placed them on what our fathers called "praying ground." You hear those who listen to You. You answer those who obey You. Not that they were flawless, but You are "a forgiving God." And when the situation demands it You "punish" the "misdeeds" of Your children. Your love is enduring but demanding. Those who learn their lessons and receive their pardons are bold to approach Your throne of grace. Holiness now attracts them, and they rest in Your love as effective intercessors.

I'm glad I'm one of them, not a Moses, or an Aaron, or a Samuel, of course, but one of the forgiven who knows from experience that heaven's King delights to hear and answer the least of His subjects.

Holy are You and happy am I.

Joyful Worship Once Again

Psalm 100.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness… (v. 1, 2).

Enthusiasm in worship? How appalling that would be to many people, Lord. Sunday after Sunday in church after church, the atmosphere is almost doleful. If someone shouted for joy he would be evicted with haste. The mood is sadness, not gladness, as though the world had ended on "Good Friday" instead of beginning anew on Easter Sunday.

You give us good reason to worship "with joyful songs." We are "your people." You are the Creator who refused to abandon Your people when they sinned. You are the Shepherd who compassionately seeks and saves the straying, who leads and feeds the flock. Your enduring love and abiding faithfulness should inspire us to gladness and gratitude that make worship elative, not deflative.

Lord, how dare we tame the truth of Your saving love by humdrum services that awaken no thought, arouse no emotion, and galvanize no will? Shame us from "the lameness, the sameness, the tameness" of preaching and singing that evokes no praise, no mission, no sacrifice. Start with me, Lord. Fire my mind and heart until I cannot be silent about You, until I share gladly with others the truth of who You are and what You do for all who trust You and obey You. Amen.

Holy King, Holy Subjects

Psalm 101.
I will walk in my house with a blameless heart (v. 2).

These are the words of a king, O Lord, who took with utmost seriousness the ethical responsibilities of his office. Exactly who he was, nobody knows for sure. How well he succeeded in keeping his pledges, only You know. One thing is sure, he knew that You would have to supply his moral strength--hence his urgent prayer: "...when will you come to me?" Your "love and justice," which he celebrates in song, will be reflected in his behavior, and that of his court, only as You dwell in him. Then he will walk in his house with a blameless heart.

Lord, I am not a king; I am a peasant. But all of Your people represent You, and You require of them a blameless walk. "Be holy, because I am holy," is Your mandate for me.

When I think of my failures, Lord, I rejoice that You are a forgiving God. When I think of my challenges and responsibilities, I rejoice that You are an enabling God.

One King has lived constantly in the spirit of Psalm 101--Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of mankind. He reigns in love, but His love is not mushy. He demands loyalty to His own quality of life from all His servants. Aware of Your strength and my weakness, I pray today, "Come to me."

 Always There!

Psalm 102.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute (v. 17).

Lord, the one thing I can count on in this changing world is Your enduring, forgiving love. Even Your punishments, necessary for my discipline, are less than I deserve. Your blessings are more, in number and kind, than I could ever merit. You are gracious.

That's what this ancient psalmist counted on, for himself and for his people. He was "in distress"--and how! With burning bones and blighted heart, with ashes for food and tears for drink, with taunting enemies and broken strength, he was indeed among the destitute. Between groans he managed prayers and testimonies, cries for help and recitals of Your unchanging love and power.

In contrast to his fragile life, You are "enthroned forever." And You are compassionate, viewing the plight of hurting people, hearing the groans of abused prisoners. You are limitless in power and glory, but You take a personal interest in the life of Your weakest child.

You, O Lord, are my hope and strength. Heaven and earth may perish, "but You remain." You are "the same," hating and punishing sin, loving and forgiving sinners. Persons and situations change, but through it all You are there--and for me, even me. I live in Your presence and bless Your name.

His Benefits

Psalm 103:1-5. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits (v. 2).

Lord, if ever a Psalm was tailored to my moods and needs, this is surely the one. I am at that age and stage in life where reasons for praise are multiplied. Looking back over the trail, I can recite the psalmist's "benefits" as my own experience, and add numbers of blessings to the list.

You have forgiven all my sins, as many and awful as they were. For Christ's sake, who died for the sins of all, You have granted a pardon to this former rebel--a pardon free and freeing. Your Spirit assures mine of acceptance with You.

You have healed all my diseases, keeping me from premature death. You did not release me from all pain, but You forbade the causes of my pain to claim me as their prey. You rebuked illness, sometimes through doctors, medicines, even surgeries, but also by the immediate, direct touch of Your mighty hand.

You have satisfied my desires with good things, physically and spiritually, renewing by them my body and soul. You have enabled me to do some of my most effective work in my declining years.

Surely, You have crowned me with love and compassion. "Had I a thousand tongues to sing" Your praise, I would still have to admit, "The half has never yet been told." "Praise the Lord, O my soul."

Compassion's Consequences

Psalm 103.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him (v. 13).

Lord, Your love is indeed "from everlasting to everlasting." From Your enduring love flows an endless stream of compassion.

As a compassionate Father, You pity our frailty. Men in positions of power often scorn the weak, preying upon them to enrich themselves. You, by contrast, have mercy on us, not exploiting us but rescuing and adopting us. You make us Your children!

You treat us, not as our sins deserve, but graciously. Your love, heaven-high and ages-abiding, prompts You to remove our sins "as far as the east is from the west." That is as far as possible for as long as possible. Hallelujah!

Your love is not indulgent, however. The urgency of our obedience is accented in this psalm. Our disobedience does not quench Your love, but it does subject us to "loss of benefits." The benefits are for those who fear You, who keep Your covenant, who obey Your precepts.

Help me, Lord, to join Your "heavenly hosts," not only in praising Your name, but also in doing Your will. The "benefits package" in this psalm is surely enough to inspire gratitude that prompts obedience. "Praise the Lord, O my soul."

Our Great Creator

Psalm 104.
O Lord my God, you are very great (v. 1).

Lord, scholars tell me that an ancient psalmist sang the words of this psalm as "a solo hymn of the course of temple worship." Well, no one would ever invite me to solo in a worship service. But I recall a magnificent moment when I stood alone, with an ocean and a range of mountains in view, and read, through tears of joy and awe, these words of praise to You as the mighty Creator and Sustainer of the world.

I echo the psalmist's faith. Independent laws operating automatically I cannot accept. "This is my Father's world." Secondary causes deserve no praise. You set the earth upon its foundations. You assigned the boundaries of the seas. You water the earth, You make the grasses grow, You enable men and women to "bring forth food from the earth." You planted "the cedars of Lebanon." You bring the day and night. You furnish a home for creatures great and small. You "made them all"--they are "your creatures." Your open hand feeds them, Your averted face terrifies them. Your everlasting glory is everywhere evident to the eyes of faith.

You have created beings both to "labor" and to "frolic." Above all, You have created them to respond to You. The lion's roar is a prayer for food. The psalmist's words are food for prayer. "Praise the Lord, O my soul."

The Promise Keeper

Psalm 105.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts (v. 2).

This psalm, Lord, celebrates Your activities as a faithful God who keeps His covenants and fulfills His promises.

Even a casual reader would be struck by the phrases that proclaim Your "wonders": "He remembers his covenant," "He commanded," "He swore," "He confirmed," "He rebuked," "He called," "He sent," "He turned," "He spoke," "He struck," "He brought," "He spread," "He opened," "He gave." All of these introduce the interventions You initiated and executed in order to deliver, guide, and keep Your people. You did not act capriciously, but You acted with reference to Your promises to Abraham, Your covenants with Israel. What this recital of past events emphasizes are Your love, Your fidelity, Your steadfast commitment to Your word.

Lord, I am a child of Your new covenant, administered by the crucified, resurrected, and interceding Christ. I live in faith and hope, trusting His promises to care and keep, looking forward to His coming in glory. Your covenant with Israel was tied to an earthly homeland. I look for a city, a country, eternal and holy. If Israel had cause to "praise the Lord," how much more do I. I will praise You, daily and gratefully and joyfully.

Enduring Love

Psalm 106.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever (v. 1).

Through this long psalm two notes are repeated again and again--the enduring obstinacy of Your people and the enduring love of their God. "We have sinned, even as our fathers did"--that sums up the human rebellion. "Yet he saved them for his name's sake"--that sums up the divine response.

At the Exodus, and in the Wilderness, You repeatedly spared a people who "were bent on rebellion." When their sins brought punishment, You threatened to destroy them, but You lifted the rod when some faithful intercessor--a Moses, a Phineas--"stood in the breach," "stood up and intervened."

"They forgot the God who saved them," but "he remembered his covenant." Those two statements say it all. Lord, I read of Israel's ungrateful exchange of the living God for the lifeless idols of pagan nations, and I wonder why You kept bailing them out of well-deserved misery with undeserved mercy. Then I think, "Why have You been so patient and forgiving with me?" The answer lies in Your love which endures forever. In love, You sent Christ to stand in the breach and intervene at the cost of His life. Your love is stronger than death, more enduring than sin.

Distress and Deliverance

Psalm 107.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28).

Trouble has one redeeming feature, Lord. It prompts us to call upon You. Because Your love "endures forever" You repeatedly rescue the perishing.

You delivered the lost, those who "wandered in desert wastelands." In love, You "led a city where they could settle" and be satisfied with good things.

You delivered the imprisoned--those "suffering in iron chains." In love, You "brought them out of darkness" and "broke away their chains."

You delivered the fools, whose "rebellious ways" led to devastating illness and near-death. In love, You "sent forth [Your] word and healed them."

You delivered the storm-tossed, those whom mountainous waves threatened to drown amidst broken rigging. In love, You "stilled the storm to a whisper," and brought them to "their desired haven."

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love." And let me give thanks, for I was shackled, sick, stupid, and storm-tossed, the wretched victim of sin. I cried, You answered. Distress yielded to deliverance, all because of Your "unfailing love." Your "wonderful deeds" excite my grateful praise.

Sure Word, Steadfast Heart

Psalm 108.
My heart is steadfast, O God (v. 1).

Lord, when I read this psalm the words of an old secular song came involuntarily to mind: "It seems to me I've heard that song before." The psalmist has joined parts of two other psalms to form a new one addressing a new situation.

This reminds me of the relevance and power of old truths for new needs. How often I am helped, when "tempted and tried," by combinations of scriptures I learned and memorized when I was taking my first wobbly steps as a babe in Christ.

Besides, it is good to be reminded of "enemies" and opposition, and to know that in situations of adversity one can have joyful confidence and conquest. In the face of enemies, in the heat of strife, the heart can be "steadfast." It can rest in the promise of Your "aid against the enemy" when "the help of man is worthless."

What gives the heart its confidence, and prompts its celebration, is Your steadfastness. You keep Your word. Your love and fidelity are higher than the heavens.

That truth is enough to see me through trouble, enough to inspire early rising and courageous fighting. "God has spoken..." Your word is sure, and therefore "my heart is steadfast."

God Will Speak and Save

Psalm 109.
O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent… (v. 1).

Your silence, Lord, is hard to endure when "wicked and deceitful men" are not silent. The psalmist was under attack by "lying tongues" mouthing "words of hatred." His sincere friendship had been repaid with false accusations.

He is "a man of prayer." His prayer seems terribly harsh and unforgiving, however. He urged You to visit upon his accusers the horrible curses they had wished upon him and his family (vv. 6-20). This troubled me until I recalled that he is asking for exactly those punishments threatened by the covenant under which he lived. He is asking for justice--without mercy. Moreover, he lived long before Calvary, where the abused and tortured Christ prayed that His enemies might be forgiven.

The psalmist certainly speaks to me in one regard, Lord. He knows that his deliverance will owe to "the goodness of your love." You will act "for your name's sake," not because of his merit. He is "poor and needy," with no recourse but prayer and no hope but grace. That will suffice, for You will stand at his right hand as advocate and savior (v. 31). Prayer will bring deliverance and deliverance will inspire praise. All this surely describes my own salvation through Jesus Christ. In Him, You spoke and saved!

The King-Priest

Psalm 110.
You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek (v. 4).

Lord, this psalm rightly came to be regarded as messianic. Melchizekek was a king and priest. No king in Israel fulfilled this priesthood, no priest in Israel fulfilled this kingship--until Jesus came. Now He is fulfilling it.

Lord Jesus, You are the king whose reign has become global. In all nations are people who acclaim You as king of their lives, willing to serve You even unto death, denying to all earthly rulers the total submission they give to You.

Your enemies will become Your footstool. The "last enemy" to be subjugated is death. Already, You conquered death in Your resurrection. The resurrection of Your people will complete that conquest.

You are a priest, who offered yourself as a sacrifice for sin. In You, perfect priest and perfect sacrifice are united. It is You alone who mediates between God and mankind. Your atoning death and risen life forever grounds our salvation. You receive our tithes and thank-offerings as the high priest whom we confess" (Heb. 3:1).

You are my King; I am Your grateful subject. You are my Priest, my access to God's throne of grace for mercies uncounted. To You I owe my love, my trust, my service forever. O happy debt!

Great Works

Psalm 111.
Great are the works of the Lord (v. 2).

This psalm, like a number of others, calls upon me to praise You for Your works. A batch of qualifiers are pressed into the service of describing those works: great, glorious, majestic, powerful, faithful and just.

The gods of pagan nations could not compare! They were capricious and corrupt. They were not covenant-makers and covenant-keepers. Indeed, they reflected the immorality of their devotees.

For that matter, who would use these terms to describe the works of human rulers? The kings, presidents, and dictators who have governed during my lifetime were not conspicuous for righteousness, faithfulness, and holiness.

You, Lord are worthy of eternal praise. All who "ponder" Your works are bound to "delight" in them. They feel like echoing the psalmist's resolution: "I will extol the Lord with all my heart." That is exactly how I feel today.

Above all Your other works I especially praise You for having "provided redemption" for Your people. You have redeemed me from sin, and I will give You eternal praise for that awesome and expensive act of love and power.

Ultimate Security

Psalm 112.
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord (v 7).

The man who fears You, Lord, will not fear bad news. He will receive bad news from time to time, for no human life is immune from trouble and tragedy in this world.

The "upright" man, who delights in Your word and treats people with justice and kindness, will not fear bad news because his identity and security are found in You, not in his position or possessions. He does not trust in health or wealth, he does not trust in might or right--he trusts in You. His destiny does not rest on what he has or has done, but rests upon You, the "gracious and compassionate and righteous" One. His fortunes may change but You do not. Therefore, he sees beyond any reversal of fortune, and knows that "in the end" he will triumph over all opposing forces.

By contrast, "the longings of the wicked will come to nothing." This is "the end"--either You or nothing. The man who trusts in things cannot win, the man who trusts in You cannot lose. Things change and decay; You abide. "Good will come" to the righteous; the wicked "will come to nothing." I choose You!

Worthy of Praise

Psalm 113.
Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord (v. 1).

You call for my praise, O Lord, for I am Your servant. "Servant" was a designation usually reserved for kings, priests, and prophets in the Old Testament. Now all who believe in Christ are Your servants, and praise is one form their service takes.

You are worthy of praise "now and forevermore." You are worthy of praise from east to west and day after day, for You are the "exalted" One who "stoops" to care for the little people. You are "enthroned on high," Your glory is "above the heavens," and yet You "raise the poor from the dust," "the needy from the ash heap." You make "the barren woman...a happy mother." You take a compassionate personal interest in the lives of those who look to You in love and trust.

In this world the rich and powerful keep their distance from the shabby wretches who tread mean streets in despair. Their infrequent and casual help is remote and impersonal—a check mailed to some charitable organization. You got personally involved. You came to us in Jesus Christ, You experienced humanity and poverty and cruelty in order to save us. "Who is like the Lord our God"!

He Resides as Ruler

Psalm 114.
When Israel came out of Egypt…. Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion (vv. 1-2).

Lord, You chose to dwell among freed slaves. They were not large in number nor were they conspicuous for merit. Your love alone was the ground of their election. In sheer mercy You delivered them, causing the sea to retreat, the river to halt, the mountains and hills to quake. In utter grace You sustained them, turning "hard rock into springs of water."

You are a gracious God, saving from the bondage of sin and dwelling in those You redeem. Not my worth, not my works, prompted You to deliver me. I am Your pardoned and adopted child only because You are compassionate and gracious.

But You also rule whom You redeem. Israel became Your dominion. You did not form those ransomed slaves into a democracy. You dwelled with them as their Lord, their Ruler. Your rule is more absolute than any Pharaoh's, but it is the rule of perfect love, perfect wisdom, perfect justice--a rule that frees and fulfills us.

Lord of nature, Lord of nations, You seek our highest welfare, liberating us to do, not as we wish, but as You will. Teach me anew that obedience is the corollary of grace and the guarantee of peace.

A Big Difference

Psalm 115.
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him (v. 3).

What a difference, Lord, between You and the lifeless gods of pagan people. You are the God who made man in Your image. They are gods made in the likeness of evil and fallen men. You do whatever pleases You. They cannot see, hear, speak, or interact with their devotees. You love, bless, help, defend, remember, give, and forgive. What a commentary on the blinding and shackling power of sin are idols and idolaters!

"Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." Like gods, like people. As there is a vast difference between You and them, there should be a vast difference between their devotees and Your people. If I truly worship You, O Lord, I will become increasingly like You. My life will more and more reflect Your glory, glory revealed in Jesus Christ.

"Maker of heaven and earth," this I desire above all else, to be like You. I want "your love and faithfulness" to define me, to direct me, to distinguish me. Your pleasure is my profit. My highest good is to be like You in my attitudes and actions. Bless me with this good and I will praise You forever.