Psalm 107

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;

let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 107:43 (ESV)

God’s steadfast love reaches wherever you are, even in the moments it does not feel true. Maybe the shadows just seem too dark. Maybe it just feels like you’re too far off track. Maybe everything swirling around you has you wondering which way to turn. Whether it feels true or not, God’s steadfast love reaches wherever you are.

Psalm 107 describes four groups of people in four different places. Some wandered in the desert with no place to dwell. Some sat as prisoners in the darkness. Some found trouble through their own foolish choices. Some were tossed by the waves until they were at their wits’ end. Four different groups in four different places, but each one responded the same way, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28).

They cried out, and God delivered them from their distress. For those wandering, hungry and thirsty, God led them to a place where their souls were satisfied. For those imprisoned in darkness, God led them out of the shadows and set them free. For those suffering the consequences of foolish decisions, God sent out his word and healed them. And for those in the midst of the storm, God calmed the waves and brought them to safety.

They cried out, and God delivered. They were four different groups in four different places, but like us, none of them were beyond the reach of God’s steadfast love. Where were you when you cried out to the Lord in your trouble? How has he delivered you from your distress? Thank the Lord for his steadfast love!

Psalm 85

I love the old hymn by W.P. Mackay that begins, “We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love, for Jesus who died and is now gone above.” It praises God for sending His son to rescue us. It praises God for sending the Spirit to point us to our savior. And it praises God for what Jesus has done to bear the weight of our sins. In many ways, it mirrors what we see here in Psalm 85, where the psalmist is praising God for the ways He has provided for His people, praising Him for the forgiveness of His people’s sins. It can be easy for us to wake up and begin with our focus on what is wrong in the world and in our own lives, to focus even our prayers completely on what we want God to do, but this Psalm points us to a different starting place. God has been favorable to us. He has shown grace and mercy to us. We see it all over the pages of Scriptures. We hear it in the songs we sing in worship. We know it in our own experiences.

And far from being stuck in the past, when we begin by praising God and remembering what God has done for us, it leads us to call out to Him in faith to do today and tomorrow what He has done before, Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!” Those words from Psalm 85:4 are a cry that is echoed again in verses 6-7, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” Those aren’t calls to return to some past time when everything was perfect. They’re calls to a God who is perfect, One who has proven it before and can do it again. So today, may hearts of praise lead us into a prayer like the final verse of that old hymn, “Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love; may each soul be rekindled with fire from above.”

Psalm 61

I remember it well. It was our first camping trip as a family. We set up camp near Cumberland Falls for the hottest week of the year. I’m not usually one to complain about heat. I love summer, but I also appreciate air conditioning. Despite all the fun adventures we had that week and the great memories we made, I don’t think any of us ended the week wanting to dwell in that tent forever. Clearly, our tent was much different from the one David cries out to God for in Psalm 61:4, “Let me dwell in your tent forever!

We live in a world where the heat seems to come from every direction. You’re either too conservative or too liberal. You’re either too serious or too carefree. You either agree with me or you’re the worst person ever. It isn’t just a pressure we feel but a pressure we too often exert. And it isn’t new in 2020, even if it seems it’s getting worse. For a while now, we’ve found ourselves living in a culture of perpetual outrage, one that can leave us with a heart that is faint.

Psalm 61 gives us a path to walk when our hearts are faint. Cry out to the God who hears you. He is a rock and a refuge in a world that is shifting. He is home when it feels like you’re at the end of the earth, unable to get your bearings. The reality is there are much greater challenges than a week without air conditioning in the summer heat, but no matter what you face today, taking refuge in the presence of God never gets old.

Psalm 34

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,

for those who fear him have no lack!

The young lions suffer want and hunger;

but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:8-10, ESV

There aren’t many points where everyone agrees these days, but you won’t find a large base of support for fear. Fear is almost universally viewed as an obstacle to reaching our goals, as a threat to being at our best. We’re told to face our fears with courage. We’re told to choose faith over fear. The Scriptures tell us famously in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened.” And then in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

You won’t find many voices speaking out in favor of fear, but here in Psalm 34, we do find one. David comes to the height of this song, extolling the goodness of God. Taste and see! If you have any personal experience with the Lord, then you know that He is good! If you have ever sought refuge in the Lord, then you know that you are blessed! Then, in the midst of this overwhelmingly positive praise is a word that doesn’t usually seem positive at all…fear. “Fear the Lord” is David’s call because “those who fear him have no lack!” It’s clear from Psalm 34 that to “fear the Lord” is not something to be avoided but something to be celebrated. Why? Because fearing the Lord doesn’t steal your joy like fearing anything or anyone else does. Fearing the Lord secures your joy.

In verses 9 and 10, those who lack no good thing are categorized in two ways: as those who fear the Lord and as those who seek the Lord. Fearing the Lord and seeking the Lord go hand in hand. Fearing the Lord isn’t the type of fear that causes us to run and hide from Him. It’s the type of fear that leads us to seek Him out, to pursue a closer walk with Him. Take a look at verse 4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Fearing the Lord means seeking the Lord, and seeking the Lord is the only way to be free of whatever else it is you fear. The Lord is a refuge. The Lord is good. Fear Him, and He will deliver you from all your fears.

Psalm 23

It’s often said that familiarity breeds contempt. The more you know about someone, the more likely you are to find something that irritates you, something that you do not like about them. And it doesn’t just happen with people. Take the latest hit song as another example. The first few times you hear it, you’re tapping your foot and singing along. The thousandth time you hear it, you can’t change the station or skip to the next song fast enough. What was once an enjoyable escape can quickly become a source of frustration. Familiarity breeds contempt…except when it doesn’t. There are some songs that never get old. There are some people for whom we seem to have more patience than others. Why is that?

Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known songs in all of human history. We read it in moments of grief and pain and chaos, and into those moments, it breathes comfort and strength and order. Familiarity breeds contempt…except when it doesn’t. Sometimes, what is familiar is what brings us restoration, comfort, and overflowing joy. Psalm 23 does just that with its familiar words and familiar imagery. It’s the image of a shepherd watching over his sheep, a God who leads us to rest and restoration and comfort in a world clamoring for peace. It’s the image of the host of a great banquet, a God who provides us with all that we need and fills our hearts to overflowing. Familiarity with the Lord breeds contentment, not contempt. It brings comfort in the midst of chaos. It brings joy in the midst of our pain. Why is that?

It’s because we weren’t created to find our satisfaction anywhere other than in the Lord. If you’re expecting me to make you happy, I’ll eventually let you down, probably sooner rather than later. If I always need the newest, the latest, or the greatest, then I’ll always need more, but in the Lord, we find One whose goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, One of whom it is a joy, not a dread, to sing, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As Katherine Hankey wrote and generations of Christians have sung, “And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ’twill be the old, old story, that I have loved so long.” It’s a song that never gets old because there’s always more goodness and mercy to come. The more we know Him, the more certainly we can declare in every circumstance, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” He’s all we need and all we’ll ever need.

Psalm 5

I think we’ve all had some version of the same conversation, where someone asks the question, “How are you doing?” And another person responds with something like, “I can’t complain, wouldn’t do any good if I did.” It seems like the noble response, and often, it is. This world has plenty of negativity, and we don’t want to add our voices to the chorus of the complainers. But if complaining is unproductive at best or counterproductive at worst, then what do we do with Psalm 5?

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.

There’s no question about David’s intention here. He has some issues to address, and he begs God to hear him out. He pleads with God to hear his cry. Why? What good is David’s groaning going to do? Shouldn’t he be working for justice instead of just praying? Here’s where we see the difference between so much of the complaining we’re tempted to do on a daily basis and the holy complaint that David is voicing.

David’s complaint isn’t about his own comfort or power or reputation. David’s focus is on God. He is crying out because of who God is. God does not delight in wickedness and does not dwell with evil. God is uncompromisingly committed to truth and justice, abhorring violence and deceit in any form. David declares the holy character of God without any illusions of his own righteousness. By God’s grace, David is keenly aware of his own shortcomings. It is only through the abundance of God’s steadfast love that David enter’s God’s house. It’s grace that leads David to cry out, “8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”

David’s complaint begins with who God is and who God has called him to be, and then it moves to those he calls his enemies. In this Psalm, we aren’t told the specific circumstances of David’s cry. We don’t know the names of these enemies or the specifics of their sins, but we know who they were. They were those who lied indiscriminately, those whose highest priority was self-promotion at the expense of others, those whose words were more about what they wanted than about what they said. They’re those who lived and worked in ways that were counter to the character of the God who hates evil, violence, and deceit. That is who David’s enemies were. That is what drove David to the point of groaning. We don’t know the specifics of David’s circumstances then, but we know our circumstances now. We see the effects of those who embrace the lie that others are less than human because of the color of their skin, of those who use the Bible and the people of God as cover for their own dishonest gain, of those who excuse violence and deceit as long as the end result is to their benefit. And like David, we recognize that we too often fall short of God’s glory.

David’s complaint isn’t just about signaling his own superiority. It’s a cry of humility and dependence upon God. It isn’t an excuse for inaction. It’s a call to action. It’s a cry for justice and a call for mercy. David wasn’t just praying, but he was praying. He was praying because he saw the overwhelming horror of injustice AND because he knew the God who can and will make all things right, the God who calls us to join Him in the work of justice.

Lord, give us eyes to see as you see and ears to hear as you hear. Show us the injustice around us and also within us. Lead us in the way of justice and righteousness, and bring healing to our world that is broken and hurting. We need your grace where we come up short. We need your protection in a fallen world. We need your joy in the midst of our sorrow. We need your strength to walk in the way you’ve set before us. Give ear to our words, O Lord.