“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV)
Our promises found in our passage include one much the same as the words Paul wrote to the Philippian church toward the end of his ministry. This letter to the church at Corinth however, was not written while he was in prison. In these verses Paul was not saying he had absolutely no contact; there is prayer, the indwelling Spirit, and fellowship through the Word. Paul was expressing a strong yearning to be at home with his Lord. We find the Psalmist expressing the same sentiments in Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) There’s no place that we go when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death where God absent from us He is with us. Heaven is where God is. “Surely … I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) So where is the house of the Lord? It’s where God dwells and that is in heaven. The hope of the psalmist was to be absent from the body to be present with the Lord.
“Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” – Psalm 32:2 (ESV)
Come to think about it, an observant and sound minded person is able to notice quite a number of lies that are widespread in our world. These lies lay out, for those who choose to believe them, a way to cover their guilt from the consequent sins. If we also notice who it is that is propagating and spreading these lies, we just might come to understand the answer to the frequent question; “What in the world is wrong with our world today?” We should be very cautious that we do not buy into these lies for they kill our happiness and extinguish our joy. Alistair Begg says, “Honesty is vital to the discovery of happiness. Joyful, contented people do not lie to themselves or to anybody else. We cannot deceive ourselves and enjoy genuine happiness; deceit and happiness don’t sleep in the same bed.” It is a wonderful promise from God that He will restore and bless us by forgiving us when we repent and confess our sinfulness. King David expressed his personal experience of receiving forgiveness in this Psalm. In a same manner so can each of us.
“Yahweh* is my shepherd; I will not lack for anything. In grassy pastures he makes me lie down; by quiet waters he leads me. ” – Psalm 23:1-2 (LXEB)
We look today at a very familiar verse from a version that is not so common. Such comfort and truth are packed in this Psalm and it is well worth returning to it over and over again. Living like a sheep can bring you incredible peace of mind! The shepherd in Old Testament times knew his sheep. He knew each one and understood what foods were best for them, what they needed to thrive, and what dangers there were that could harm them. God knows us this way too. In the Gospel of John 10: 11,14 Jesus declares Himself explicitly to be the good shepherd two times. It is by His very nature that our Good Shepherd laid down His life for us. It is a promise from Him. He declares that He knows His own sheep and they know Him. We have a relationship with Him. This gives us reason to have absolute trust in our Good Shepherd and to value the nourishment that comes from more than anything else in our lives or in the world. Jesus did not simply identify as our good shepherd. No. He is by nature our good shepherd and cares for us always.
* The name of God, as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, is YHWH (the closest English equivalents to the Hebrew letters). Ancient Hebrew did not have vowels, so the exact pronunciation of YHWH is uncertain. The vast majority of Hebrew and Christian scholars believe the name to be Yahweh, pronounced /ˈyä-wā/, with Yehowah, pronounced /yi-ˈhō-və/, being the second most popular possibility.
The Lexham English Bible (LEB) uses the “formal equivalence” method of translation, resulting in a quite literal rendering. Reviewers have gauged the Lexham English Bible as slightly more literal than the New American Standard. The publishers of the LEB have strived to be as transparent as possible in the translation process, providing interlinear versions that keep the Greek and Hebrew words in their original order as well as provide root words and define each word contextually and noncontextually.
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” – Psalm 37:7 (NASB)
Don’t we all remember when we went to school for the first time? For most is was Kindergarten. Some time during the day all in the class took a break from activities and rested. During the rest period we were told to “be still” which was difficult for some of us. Indeed, very difficult for most 5 years old children. The command we have in today’s verse is to “rest in the LORD” which is just as correctly rendered “be still before the LORD.” Just as a 5 year old is not really resting if he or she is wiggling about, we are not truly resting if our concern and activity is fretting about those who seems to be “getting away” with their malevolent behavior. Many cheat, lie, steal, and run confidence games on good people and seem to escape legal consequences. The first verse in this psalm said it first. “Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers.” Our promise is that we do not need to fret. We actually do not gain anything if we become so obsessed over the evil in this world – and we miss the rest we need.
“He established the earth upon its foundations, So that it will not totter forever and ever.” – Psalm 104:5 (NASB)
In vivid poetic detail, the psalmist writes this song of the Lord’s glory in creation. The first nine verses exalt the creation of the Heavens and the Earth. When God created the Earth He did so in such a way that it will not “totter forever and ever.” We can say that God created Earth in a permanent unmovable state. Continuing, we read about how the earth was covered or even wrapped in water. This may sound like but it is not a reference to the Great Flood but it about the creation of the Earth. Verse 7 tells us that it was by God’s word, His rebuke that the waters receded and the mountains rose forming valleys which sank down with a promise in verse 8, “To the place which You established for them.” God created our world and everything in it with a definite design and purpose. Verse 31 gives glory to the LORD God acknowledging that He was glad in the good work. We know that it is God who spoke the universe and the worlds into existence and He did it out of nothing and in a purposeful sequence.
“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.” – Psalm 147:1 (NASB)
Today we had a verse found in an uplifting and encouraging Psalm. Specifically written for the people of Jerusalem after they returned from exile in Babylon to restore the Temple, rebuild the walls of the city, and secure its gates. Perhaps the Psalm’s author read again the hard questions God asked Job (Job 38-41) or asked Israel (Isaiah 40). Then turns those words of God into declarations worthy of praise. Singing praises to the Lord with thanksgiving for all that He had done results in encouragement. For we know that the God who speaks these assertions, is speaking to us as well. We can take great comfort in the promise of God’s greatness, strength, and understanding (vs 5-6). There is great value in fearing God and receiving His favor; along with those who wait for his mercy and steadfast love (v. 11). For all this we have great reasons to praise and sing praises to God from our hearts. It makes our days more pleasant. Fretting about our afflictions and the wicked who disrupt the peace of our lives is unprofitable. The LORD supports and will relieve us of our afflictions, it’s a promise (v. 6).
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty,” – Psalm 104:1 (NASB)
Taking a moment today to think about and ponder on the greatness of our LORD God. To bless the Lord is to praise God for all that he has done. The creator of all is God and He is greater than His creation. This is why the Creator is to be worshiped, not the creation. We might think of the things in our lives that draw us away from focusing on God’s greatness. The first two Commandments make it very clear that God was not to be supplanted in our lives by anything we would adore more than Him. “No other gods before Me.” There is to be no crafting of idols for ourselves. No serving anything or anyone or worshiping the same other than the LORD God. (Exodus 20:3-5) The manner or style of worship appropriate to only one Lord forbids us of any attempt to represent or capture His essence by use of anything He has made. Total condemnation of artistic expression was NOT the issue; but absolute denunciation of idolatry and false worship was the issue. Our LORD God is greater than we can conceive and He rightly deserves to command us to worship only Him.
“Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.” – Psalm 119:18 (NASB)
It was in 1895 that Clara H. Scott wrote the now traditional hymn “Open my Eyes.” It was inspired by more than one Psalm but the verse we have today likely inspired the first stanza of the hymn. If you are familiar with the hymn you know how it can stick in your mind*. Our verse brings to us the promise of wonderful things from God’s Word. But we need to have our eyes opened. Notice we say opened, not open. Even if we have our eye open, it is only when they are opened by God’s Word that we can understand what God has in store for us. God’s Word is full of things for us to have to build our relationship with Him. If we looked at the next verse, we hear the psalmist plea that God’s commandments not be withheld from him. Our time on this earth is a sojourn. Our birth into God’s family by His grace and mercy makes us strangers to this world. We need God’s Word to navigate through. We ask God to “Open our eyes,” because without His help, we are blind to His way and His blessings.
Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!” – Psalm 119:2-3 (ESV)
Psalm 119* is longest of the psalms and chapters in the Bible. Like Psalm 1 and 19 it exults God’s Word. We cannot be certain who the psalmist is since he is not identified. Each verse contains the author’s reverence and love for the Word of God (using eight different terms**), we take each of the statements as an affirmation of the promises God has given us regarding the effectiveness of His Word. We find again the use of the word “heart” which refers to our intellect, volition, and emotion. When we say we are seeking God with “all my heart” what we are affirming is that we have a complete commitment to God and to His Word. We don’t use it occasionally or when our circumstances are desperate and we are driven to seek God’s will in His Word. We don’t use is conveniently or only when we think about it. Our promise is that as we keep our commitment to what God has instructed us in His Word, it will keep us from doing wrong. It will keep us on the path He has made straight before us.
*This is an acrostic psalm composed of 22 sections, each containing 8 lines. All 8 lines of the first section start with the first letter of the Hebrew (language). alphabet; thus the psalm continues until all 22 letters have been used in order.
Every verse includes a reference to one of these terms. Other acrostic psalms are Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 145) referring to Scripture occurring throughout the psalm are: 1) law, 2) testimonies, 3) precepts, 4) statutes, 5) commandments, 6) judgments, 7) word, and 8) ordinances.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.” – Psalm 19:1-2 (NASB)
Today we consider a promise for us from God’s Word that He is here. With an objective look at the world around us and especially, as in today’s verse, looking up to the sky day and night, we see the evidence that God exists. He has given us a testimony in the heavens and their expanse; both are vital elements of God’s work in creation. Observing we know without hearing a voice because creation itself is telling and declaring this truth; both emphasize the permanence of these corresponding revelations. The psalmist, who is David the King, uses an anthropomorphism (ascription of human attributes to God) to illustrate God’s great power in creation of the universe. God has placed these evidences of His existence and work so that we can know without excuse that He exists (Romans 1:18-20). God has done this for our benefit and for His glory. He is perfect in every way, powerful without any weakness and worthy of honor and praise from us; we are His creatures made for this purpose. This is the sense and urgency behind David’s words in this Psalm. Today, let us see God in His creation and rejoice with thanksgiving.