Already delivered, Psalm 54

cotton ball cloudsIn today’s culture of death, when evil men persecute Christians and sin remains deeply woven into society’s fabric, consider David’s pleas and praise in Psalm 54.

As he so often does, David begins the psalm by begging God to hear his prayer:

O God, save me by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
    give ear to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:1-2, ESV)

He then states the reason he cries to God.

For strangers have risen against me;
    ruthless men seek my life;
    they do not set God before themselves (verse 3, ESV).

Christians today all over the world and in our own country are beset by ruthless men and strangers who rise up against them. These enemies have no regard for the God who made them and created all things. They do not look to God or follow his commands.

But believers acknowledge their dependence on the Lord and his sustaining power.

Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
    in your faithfulness put an end to them (verses 4-5, ESV).

Christians realize they can do nothing without God equipping them. He upholds us physically through each breath and heartbeat, emotionally through each trauma and grief, and spiritually through each perplexity and doubt.

And he does not allow evil to triumph ultimately. He will put an end to the enemies of Christians, who are also his enemies.

When we see this happen, we can praise God. We may praise him as individuals, but we encourage other believers when we share accounts of God’s deliverance. And our appropriate response is a thankful spirit in corporate worship.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies (verses 6-7, ESV).

David frequently reviewed the many ways God had delivered him in the past. He wrote these words long before his final cold and weak days, while he still fought and sang with youthful vigor. In fact, he wrote this while fleeing for his life from Saul. Despite the present danger, David considered that God had already delivered him from every trouble.

The Psalms often convey God’s deliverance as if it’s already accomplished. How would it change your outlook if you ended each prayer by confessing God’s resolution of your problem?

We may not always see the resolution to every problem or persecution in this life, but from God’s infinite perspective it’s already a done deal. Praise his name!

Advertisements

Howling dogs, Psalm 59

wolves circle
When one dog starts to howl, all the neighborhood dogs join in. If this happens late in the evening, roving coyotes may even begin howling.

Psalm 59 brings that eerie chorus to mind by repeating an identical refrain. Verses 6 & 7 in the ESV say:

Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
There they are, bellowing with their mouths
    with swords in their lips—
    for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

Verse 14 echoes 6, while verse 15 depicts the  insatiable appetite of these “dogs”:

Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
They wander about for food
    and growl if they do not get their fill (ESV).

The vivid canine simile represents  the psalmist’s circling enemies and their taunting chants. But the psalmist’s song drowns out his enemies’ howls and growls.

But I will sing of your strength;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love (Psalm 59:16 & 17, ESV).

In an earlier post, I spoke about how David wrote this psalm when he was trapped in his home, surrounded by men Saul had sent to kill him.

We may not have physical enemies prowling outside our homes, but we have spiritual enemies sneaking inside our minds. Ephesians 6:12 calls them the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Christians easily fall into one of two errors about spiritual warfare. We can disregard its reality or we can regard it too much. We need to be aware of it without being preoccupied by it. And an awareness of spiritual warfare doesn’t preclude personal responsibility.

In other words, we can’t use “spiritual warfare” as an excuse for not recognizing negative or proud thoughts and trying to take them captive to Christ:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Corinthians 10:4-6, ESV).
We shouldn’t dwell too much of the reality of spiritual enemies, but we must keep our focus on Christ. God promises:
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4, ESV).
God is in control of even the howling and growling dogs in our lives. Keep your focus on Christ. Sing aloud of God’s steadfast love in the morning. Those are the best ways to drown out chants of any enemy and fill your mind with praise to God.

Praise God! (Psalm 150)

The last psalm in the psalter rings with praise. It particularly emphasizes instrumental praise, and since it begins with a direct reference to God’s sanctuary, it seems a powerful argument for using all kinds of instruments in worship.

It begins with a call to praise God in worship and in the vast expanses of his creation (Psalm 150:1, ESV):

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens!

The psalm continues with reasons why God deserves praise (2, ESV):

Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Because God has done great and excellent things, he deserves great and excellent praise. Talented musicians are called to praise God with a variety of instruments, not in noisy cacophony but in beautiful and vibrant harmony (verses 3-5, ESV):

Praise him with trumpet sound;
   praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Every creature that breathes should praise the Lord (6, ESV):

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!

We are called to praise God in his sanctuary. We are called to praise God under his blue sky and starry heavens. God deserves great and excellent praise because he has done great and excellent things. Musicians and artists ought to praise God with all kinds of instruments or media. Every creature that lives and breathes on the face of the earth is called to use their talents and abilities to praise God.

At this time of year, when the leaves turn brilliant colors and farmer harvest plentiful crops, our hearts should overflow with praise to God for his abundant gifts.

Psalm 150 may have been singing in my mind some years ago when I wrote this poem:

Autumnal Psalm

Praise God

For gleaming star that crowns the gilded dawn
For frost that clings to shingled roof and lawn

For breath that fogs in air that’s crisp and clear
For flashing flags of startled antlered deer

For sunlight’s glint on frost-wrapped blades of grass
And even for the windshield’s frosted glass

Praise God

For warming sun in sky of sapphire blue
that glows through leaves in every varied hue

From flaming maple, russet oak, to gold
of elm’s frail pale and hickory’s brilliant bold

Above the clinging, crimson creeper vine
Beside the scarlet sumac and green pine

Praise God

For dry leaf crunch and dry leaf smell
While walking on the woodland trail

Praise God

For brunette bean field shaven clean
And blonde corn’s crooked stubble seen

For round bales, wrapped and stacked in rows
Rich fodder safe from winds and snows

For golden mountains of shelled corn
that suddenly in fall are born

And daily augered to new height
in dusty cloud from morn to night

Praise God

For geese in Vs that cleave the dusky sky
While purple clouds upon horizon lie

For rising amber harvest moon
like bulging shimmering balloon

Praise God

Let everything that hath breath
Praise the Lord

© Glenda Faye Mathes

Creation’s Praise, Psalm 148

If you’re familiar with the blue Psalter Hymnal, published by the Board of Publications of Christian Reformed Church in 1976, you may well know and love #304, “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah,” which is based on Psalm 148. The song’s rousing refrain contains antiphonal singing between the men’s and women’s parts. You may be able to listen to Kirkpatrick’s “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” on the “Cyber Hymnal” at hymntime.com  My familiarity with the song makes the tune flow through my mind while I read the psalm.

We’ve reached a bittersweet point in our reflections, since the Bible’s psalter contains only two more short psalms. But it’s impossible to be sad about seeing these reflections end when the psalms radiate such marvelous praise!

Notice all the exclamation points and instances of the word “praise” in the first six verses:

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his hosts!

 Praise him, sun and moon,
   praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
   For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
   he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away (Psalm 148:1-6, ESV).

What a beautiful picture of angels and stars, all the heavenly hosts, exuberantly praising God! God gave the word and the angels came into being. He spoke, and the sun, moon, and stars sprang into space. God established them and placed them all in their proper sphere; they will not be moved until he releases them from his decree.

The psalmist then turns his attention to more earthly parts of the created order (Psalm 148:7-14, ESV):

Praise the LORD from the earth,
   you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
   creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
   princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
   old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
   for his name alone is exalted;
    his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his saints,
   for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!

Remarkable creatures swimming deep in the sea and disparate precipitation swirling wildly through the air fulfill God’s purpose. 

Jagged peaks projecting toward the sun, diverse trees silhouetting on the horizon, amazing animals frolicking along the ground, incredible insects buzzing in the grass, and beautiful birds soaring in the sky praise God.

All people, from the greatest ruler to the poorest peasant and from the oldest man to the youngest child, are called to join in corporate praise.

God alone is worthy of all honor and glory. His name is the name above all other names. His majesty far surpasses all the beauty and variety of the heavenly hosts and the earthly creatures.

Yet God deigns to give power and praise to his saints. The Lord cares for all those who call on him in truth. We join with all his people in all places and times as we proclaim:

Praise the LORD!