Psalm 119:1

Psalm 119:1

A number of the translations render ‘esher (blessed) with the English word “happy”, but the word “blessed” is the better term. In modern use happy speaks more of a feeling. And in general feelings depend on our circumstances or on what happens. We’re generally happy if what happens to us is good. We’re not happy if what happens is bad. However that is not the promise of Psalm 1, which speaks more of one’s state or condition rather than one’s feeling. To be sure, the blessed person can certainly feel happy. The distinction is that when the blessed person of Psalm 1 encounters adverse circumstances, he or she still experiences a state or condition of blessedness. In other words, as the Psalmist promises, the blessed person in Psalm 1 will be like a tree firmly planted, sturdy, and steady and not like a tumble weed tossed about by every wind of circumstance. The blessed person has an inner strength, a supernatural source of strength, a state of blessedness regardless of the circumstances that one encounters. This is because of our eternal state in Christ.

Given the popularity of the prosperity gospel, it is important to note that any teaching that suggests we will not suffer in this life is false. Many prosperity teachers will take terms like “blessed” and twist them, implying that the bible says we’re the kings kids, so therefore if we live right we’ll receive material blessings, specifically, perfect health and abundant wealth. It is true that if we follow the Lord, things will tend to go better for us. However, the Lord clearly uses trials to discipline and grow his children. These trials are part of living in a fallen world, and the bible is full of examples. In scripture, it’s not a question of ‘if’ we’ll face trials, but ‘when.’

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Psalms 131-150

Psalms 131-150…The Great Comforter.

One day, Jesus surprised a tax collector named Levi by calling him to be His disciple. Tax collectors were despised as Roman collaborators and dishonest men, so why would Jesus call this man?

Levi left his tax booth behind and followed the Lord. He even threw a party for Jesus, and invited all his friends to celebrate. Of course, his friends were equally disreputable, and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for going into the house and eating with them. Christ’s answer is classic: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:27-32).

This was a reference to the spiritually sick. Jesus imitated His Father, shown as a Healer or Comforter in Psalm 147. This was probably written to commemorate the rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls after Israel’s return from exile (vv. 2, 13-14).

It had broken the nation’s heart to leave the Promised Land and to see the Temple burned. But God had not forgotten His people! With compassion, He had promised that He would one day bring Israel back and restore her (Isa. 51:3).

God’s comforting qualities are found in this psalm in context with many of His other attributes. He is the Creator, all-knowing, all-powerful, and just. He sustains, commands, reveals His Word, and takes pleasure in our faith and in our worship.

For today’s metaphor, the key is verse 3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (cf. Ps. 34:18). God is like the Good Samaritan in that well-known parable, bandaging the victim and showing him kindness (Luke 10:30-37). He is a shepherd, caring for the needs of His flock (Ezek. 34:16). He’s the “God of all comfort” who enables us to minister healing and comfort to others (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

It is important to remember that the perfection we’ll experience is not on this side of heaven. All things will be made perfect, including our health, but not in this life. Strangely, this teaching (the false teaching that perfect health is included in the atonement) is popular, even though none have ever experienced it.

Psalms 128-130

Psalms 128-130…A song of ascents.

Psalm 130 is a “song of ascents”–a worship song intended for use on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It can be divided into four couplets. The first is a cry for God’s mercy. The second conveys that though we stand justly condemned, we can rely upon His forgiveness and love. The third couplet describes an intense period of waiting for forgiveness, and the fourth admonishes all Israel to trust in God in this same way.

By “waiting,” we don’t imply that God is toying with our emotions. “Waiting” in this case means waiting with eagerness and hope–not wishful hope but sure hope. God will answer, His mercy and forgiveness will arrive, and the joy of fellowship will return. The psalmist is like a watchman waiting for a certain sunrise (cf. Isa. 52:8; Lam. 3:25–26).

Today or sometime soon, make room in your schedule for an extended time of confession before the Lord. Make sure you choose a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Take your Bible and perhaps some notes with you, and resolve to “do business with God.”

Psalms 121-127

Psalms 121-127…Rest.

“In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Our desire for rest is actually built into our bodies by the God who gave us a day to come apart from the work week so we won’t come apart at the seams. God even set the example when He rested from His creative work on the seventh day and “made it holy,” setting it aside as special (Gen. 2:2-3).

Later, the Sabbath was incorporated into the law (Ex. 20:8-11), forbidding Israelites to do any work on that day. It allowed them to give their attention to worshipping God while refreshing their bodies and spirits.

By the time of Jesus, the Jewish leaders had turned the Sabbath from a blessing into a bondage. There were so many rules that this day fit like a straitjacket. And the Pharisees were greatly appalled when they saw anyone breaking the rules.

The principle that one day of the week is to be devoted to rest and worship is important for us to learn. If we ignore our responsibility to be good stewards of our time, we misuse God’s gift and pay the price of stress on our bodies, minds, and spirits. And God may withhold His blessing if we are stealing from His worship and from the time He has given us for rest, to try to get ahead.

Many of the arguments about what violates God’s standard of a day of rest revolve around specific activities, such as professional sports or various forms of recreation. The Bible gives us principles the Holy Spirit uses to guide us in any situation if we are seeking God’s will.

For instance, Psalm 127 teaches the futility of work to the point of exhaustion. It’s not only tiring, it also deflects God’s blessing.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples were picking grain to eat, which was allowed under the law (Deut. 23:25) but not under the Pharisees’ rules. Jesus’ defense of His men teaches us that God created a day of rest for our benefit–not to put us under bondage. What we do on this day, in addition to worship, is something we need to determine in our hearts before God (see Rom. 14:5).

Psalms 119-120

Psalms 119-120…Contemplating the Lord.

Scripture tells us time and again that the practice of meditation involves not forgetting the Word of God (Josh. 1:8), reading it, and contemplating it so that it might penetrate our hearts and sanctify us by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16–17; Heb. 4: 12–13).

Many of the Old Testament verses on meditation are found in the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 119, which extols the virtues of the Lord’s inspired teaching that makes up the canon of Scripture. Verses 97–104 of this psalm are particularly pertinent for giving us a more thorough explanation of the kinds of things we should think upon as we meditate on God’s Word. In speaking of the blessings of the law of God, the psalmist gives us some insight into the practice of meditation.

First, we are told that the commandments of the Lord make us wiser than our enemies (v. 98). It is appropriate, then, as we are meditating on God’s Word, to consider why the passage before us is superior to the accepted ways of the world. Furthermore, the psalmist links the continual presence of the commandment with him to the wisdom it provides (v. 99); thus, mulling over a portion of Scripture should include asking how we can make its teaching a perpetual part of our lives.

Second, there is an emphasis in today’s passage on hating “every false way” and avoiding evil in order to understand and keep the Word (vv. 101, 104). Achieving the right meaning and application of a text as we meditate on it requires attention to personal holiness. A refusal to repent of known sin and a complete failure to put into practice that which we already know from Scripture will guarantee that we miss the point of what the Spirit wants to teach us in the text.

Finally, meditation should also include a consideration of the text in light of the new covenant in Christ. Since the Word of God gives us wisdom and understanding (vv. 98–99), we profit from it only if we read it with an open eye on Him who is the incarnate wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18–25). By the Spirit and in communion with the church, Jesus gives us the meaning of His Word.

Psalms 101-118

Psalms 101-115…Christ in the Old Testament.

“What do you think of the Christ?” In guiding the Jerusalem leaders to contemplate this question of eternal weight, Jesus turned to the authority of what is written “in the book of Psalms,” specifically Psalm 110 (Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:40– 44), and asked a question childlike in both simplicity and profundity, the answer to which plunges one into the unfathomable wonder of the incarnation of God: How could David refer to his son as Lord? This probing question was but the application of what Jesus would later declare, that He Himself is the object of all the Scriptures of the Old Testament, summarizing their threefold division in Luke 24:44 as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” with the Psalms standing as the summary representative of the Writings.

That much of the Psalms concerns “the Christ” was (and is) commonly accepted; the New Testament’s glorious proclamation is that Jesus is this Christ, the long-expected “Anointed One” of whom these Scriptures speak. And so we read of Peter, who, after quoting two psalms, declared to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost: “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). We read of Paul, too, who reasoning from the Scriptures (again, the Old Testament), demonstrated that the Christ had to suffer and rise again, saying, “This Jesus, whom I preach to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:2–3). The apostles, to be sure, drew heavily from the Psalms for their inspired testimony regarding the person and work of Christ. The book of Hebrews, for example, is woven together by psalms, showing us that Jesus is the “son of man” of Psalm 8 who was made “for a little while lower than the angels” through the incarnation but now has been crowned “with glory and honor” through His resurrection and ascension (Heb. 2:5–9). Matthew’s gospel unveils the Psalms as key to Jesus’ own self-understanding, Satan quoting Psalm 91 to Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6) and Jesus, upon the cross of agony, sifting His suffering through the sieve of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). That He meditated often on the Psalms, and upon what they spoke concerning Himself, is evident in how Jesus summarized His suffering and exaltation with the lines of Psalm 118:22: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Matt. 21:42; see also Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7).

Thus, the New Testament continually uses the book of Psalms to fix our gaze upon the excellencies of Christ, upon the majesty, beauty, and glory of the One who through His humiliation and exaltation reigns over the nations, leading them to the heavenly Mount Zion so that, lost in wonder, love, and praise, they may proclaim eternally the glory of the triune God.

Psalms 76-100

Psalms 76-100…When people are big and God is small.

One of great tragedies associated with Christianity in the past 50-60 years is the rise of the prosperity gospel. If one simply thinks critically for a few minutes about how inconsistent this worldview really is with the bible, it is quite amazing how popular it has gotten among Christians (though in some cases it is clearly a barrier to understanding the true gospel). The idea that this life is about us, and that we can get what we want from God if we simply believe that our words will magically produce those results seems silly if you stop and think about it. However, we also know that Satan is constantly at work to deceive, and he uses teaching cloaked in “christian” language to draw people away from God.

When we make people big and God small (Ed Welch – When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man ), it shouldn’t surprise us when a popular theology arises which emphasizes health and wealth in this life. There is nothing new under the sun though, and at its core, the prosperity gospel is a repeat of the idolatry seen in the Garden when Adam and Eve elevated their needs and wants above God. So, we need to gain a new appreciation for the greatness of the God we are privileged to love and worship. The writer of Psalm 97 helps to lift our vision to a new level with his description of a God before Whom the whole earth trembles.

The earth trembles because God controls the forces of nature. He can light up the earth with His lightning, and turn the mountains into wax (v. 5). No other god, no idol fashioned by the hand of man, has any claim that can match or surpass the one true God.

Yet the earth is also called to rejoice in the fact that our God reigns. Verse 2 suggests the reason. God is not a cruel despot or a whimsical tyrant who simply does as He pleases without regard for the consequences.

On the contrary, God’s throne is built on righteousness and justice (v. 2). And because He displays these characteristics to an infinitely perfect degree, those who seek to know and worship Him can have absolute confidence in His character. If we can see God as He truly is, it will take our worship and our entire Christian life to a new level. But sometimes there are other things–problems, habits, the needs and concerns of daily life–that block our vision and keep us from experiencing God as He desires. When our worldview is primarily about our needs, then these things will discourage us. But, when we truly believe that God is sovereign, and is using trials to make us more like His Son, we’ll trust Him and thereby glorify Him more.

Psalms 71-75

Psalms 71-75…God alone is perfect.

God alone does marvelous deeds (Psalm 72:18). He is perfect, and His perfect creation which was tainted by the Fall, will one day be restored to perfection. The human race has been dreaming of utopia from the beginning. But an ideal world requires a ruler who is perfect in wisdom, righteousness, justice, and mercy.

Only one person meets these qualifications–God’s sinless Son, Jesus, who has been made “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The second half of Psalm 72 continues the exciting description of the justice, mercy, and prosperity that will prevail on earth when Christ takes His seat on David’s throne. It will be a kingdom of universal righteousness and blessing, and it’s in our future!

You probably have noticed by now that the Old Testament writers often focused on, and celebrated, Messiah’s future reign as universal King. But the idea of a suffering and crucified Christ, rejected by Israel and hanging in shame on a Roman cross, was a concept many devout followers of Christ simply could not grasp. Even Jesus’ disciples refused to believe His predictions of His impending death in Jerusalem. And after His resurrection, Jesus had to explain to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that it was “necessary” for the Christ to suffer (Luke 24:26).

Even though we know there are no perfect people or situations in the world, sometimes we can begin to expect perfection from ourselves and others. Are you holding someone to an impossibly high standard? We often expect the most from the people we love the most. But demanding that other people be perfect can create frustration and strained relationships. Be humble, see your own sin objectively, and be ready to help or forgive others when they do stumble.

Psalms 66-70

Psalms 66-70…God’s holiness.

God’s holiness, and the massive separation from His creation as a result of sin is woven throughout these Psalms. In Psalm 66 we see that the only way we can be united with Him is by responding to His grace and mercy with repentance and faith.

As we consider God in whom there is no darkness, we begin to understand why Isaiah reacted to God’s holiness with an overwhelming sense of his own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). God’s moral perfection may make us wonder how He could ever hear our prayers, or even why He would want to.

Understanding God’s holiness should deepen our appreciation of the Holy Spirit whom the Father has sent in the name of His Son Jesus (John 14:26). The Spirit of Truth dwelling within us leads us into God’s truth and helps us to discern error and sin within and around us. The indwelling Spirit enables us to yearn for God’s holiness and to walk in His ways.

It’s not surprising that the Holy Spirit is integrally woven into New Testament passages on prayer. Spend some time today reflecting on the Holy Spirit’s role in prayer as revealed in John 14:15–27, 16:5–16, and Romans 8:1–39. What does Jesus promise the Spirit will do? How does the Spirit help us pray? Then ask the Holy Spirit to open your soul to His leading in holiness and to His prompting in prayer in new and deeper ways.

Psalms 62-65

Psalms 62-65…Unmerited grace.

Studying the book of Romans before his conversion, Martin Luther felt unable to find peace with God: “My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage Him.” At last he found the answer. “I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.” In short, Luther had finally understood that God forgives! Salvation is not about “merit” but mercy. His feelings–of being reborn or of entering paradise–parallel the psalmist’s in today’s reading.

Psalm 65 frames this psalm of praise, particularly in verses 1-2. Verses 5–8 describe God’s awesome power over nature and nations, and verses 9–13 conclude with images of God’s blessing. These references to fertility and abundance give people more reasons to worship, even as creation itself joins in.

Verses 3–4 speak directly to what Luther described. What’s the human condition? We’re overwhelmed by sin, unable to help ourselves. We’ve been defeated. What’s the solution? “You forgave our transgressions” or “You made atonement for our transgressions.” As we’ve seen throughout the Old Testament, God’s forgiving love comes to the rescue.

Since forgiveness is part of God’s nature, when He forgives, we experience His presence and rejoice in it. The psalmist used a metaphor of living in the Lord’s house (cf. Ps. 23:6; 84:1–4). To be forgiven means to be loved, or in other words chosen. We who have been chosen by God join His family. He’s personally present in our lives, filling them with good things. To be “filled” means to be saturated, that is, fully satisfied.