This Psalm is not one of excitement or joy, rather it is the song of lament sung by the psalmist as he was overwhelmed by his enemies. He speaks of the accusations and hateful words they hurl at him as he attempts to show them love. It’s a dark scene of sorrow for this innocent man, but he responds with a powerful statement in verse 4, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.” At this point it would be very easy for him to vent his anger to a friend or try to get revenge on his enemies. However, that isn’t the choice he made. He chose to go to God in prayer. He pleads for God’s help, for God to avenge the evil of his enemies, and then he gives thanks to the Lord in praise.
In today’s world of constant connection through social media and texting, it’s far too easy to rush to our phone or computer when we are in despair. In a matter of minutes we can type up a hateful post to “get it off our chest” or to “rant for a minute.” We can easily rattle off a heated text to a friend bemoaning the ways we’ve been wronged, seeking justification for our attitude and anger. The psalmist here provides a clear example of what our reaction should be. We should head straight to God in prayer. He is the only one who can bring us peace and the only one worthy of our praise. And yes, He’s worthy of our praise even when our circumstances seem unfair or people are treating us poorly.
So I challenge you to read this Psalm again. As you do, think of Jesus in the midst of His enemies. Remember His response and notice the parallel with that of the psalmist. No doubt you will frequently encounter a time of despair, turmoil, or division in this broken world. When you do, simply stop. Put your phone down. Leave your computer. Seek the Lord and His guidance, asking Him to help you and bring you peace in the midst of the turmoil. Finally, praise Him for His faithfulness.
When I was a kid, my dad and I built a tree house in the backyard. I say “we” built it but really I just stood around and watched and listened every now and then when he wanted me to learn something. At the time, it seemed like that tree house took at least 7 years to build! Honestly, it still feels like it took forever, but I know that in reality it only took about a year. I realize that still seems like a long time, but my dad always said, “If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.” Then he’d get it as close to perfect as humanly possible. He’d accomplish this with laser focus and absolute silence. So a tree house was a big project. But the deal was that I had to be there to watch so that I could have a part in it and learn something. Did I mention he worked in complete silence? As a kid, that was torture and completely exhausting. I would whine and complain and beg to do more than watch, but that wasn’t the plan. I’m really not sure how he had the stamina not to give in to my pleading. Despite all the whining, it turned out to be the best tree house I’d ever seen and became the headquarters for all of my adventure planning!
We’ve all experienced parts of life that seem to drag on (usually when we are struggling or in the midst of difficulty) and other times that seem to fly by unreasonably fast. The psalmist points out that our time on this earth is fleeting. He is praying for God to give us wisdom and guide our priorities. I love verse 12 as it says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” The idea of numbering our days brings to the forefront the need for intentionality in the way we spend our time. What are willing to approach with laser focus? What are we willing to invest our time in? My dad was willing to invest countless hours into trying to teach me how to strive for quality in my work, even as it disrupted his silent system. Are we willing to take inventory of our hours, and even when it disrupts our comfort, invest in the lives of those around us? Let’s seek His wisdom and be intentional with our time, striving to glorify Him with what little time we have!
Lately I’ve been revisiting the missionary journey of Jim Elliot, his family, and friends as they used everything they had to reach the Auca people and others for Christ. His widow, Elisabeth Elliot, shares of their journey of faith in her book Through the Gates of Splendor, giving us a glimpse into the struggles and joys they shared on the mission field. Jim and his friends had such a conviction to spread the Gospel that they gave up a comfortable life in America, moved to the rainforest, and poured their lives into the people around them. They had little use for worldly distractions and comforts to misguide their focus.
Not everyone is called to the foreign mission field, just as not everyone is called into vocational ministry. However, as followers of Christ, we are all called to make disciples and spread the Gospel. My own heart has been convicted as I’ve been pondering the Elliots’ sacrifice. Too often I allow myself to get caught up worrying about other people’s choices and seeking my own comfort. These things point to self, but I desire my life and focus to point to Christ. I want to be focused in my prayer for our missionaries, our community, and the unreached people groups.
This Psalm is a powerful reminder of God’s saving power among all the nations. It’s a call to praise Him for his grace and mercy. God is our sovereign ruler, whom we can trust and should exalt. So today, as you get tangled up in worldly comforts and arguments, re-read this Psalm. Praise God and be glad; our God is good! Seek to share His glory with those around you, be focused on your call as a Christ follower, and lift others up in prayer. Let’s refocus together!
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.Psalm 42:1-3
My soul thirsts for you, O God, for the living God When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Here the Psalmist clearly communicates his desire to be in the presence of God as he worships. One can feel his melancholy emotions as he longs for God, is surrounded by his enemies, and is kept from the sanctuary. These feelings are so strong that he is repeatedly asking himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?…” (v. 5, 11).
I had a day recently where things were simply not unfolding to my satisfaction. It was nothing life altering, however, that day it felt like a lot. My heart felt heavy and I just couldn’t find a sense of peace. The people around me probably thought I was mourning for some reason, but really, I was just lacking joy in the Lord. My heart and soul were downtrodden and nothing earthly could fix that. As the day progressed I continually asked myself why I was feeling so blue and restless, but to no avail. I could never put my finger on a reason. That is, until I sat down in prayer and evaluated my day. I was longing to be in the presence of God. I had neglected to spend adequate time with him that morning, I had put my desires first, and I was ultimately kept from daily worship. Aha! That’s why no treats, no music, and no level of productivity could soothe my soul.
Many of us may be in this situation of worship separation anxiety (yes, it’s a term I just made up!). We aren’t getting to worship at church like we are used to, things are changing, when we do go to the sanctuary things are different. Sometimes we long for things to be like they were back before Covid kept us from sanctuary worship. We might feel far from God’s presence or like we can’t fully engage. It leaves our souls longing for more. I encourage you with the Psalmists words, in verses 5 and 11. After he asks himself why his soul is tumultuous and down trodden, he gives a reminder, “…Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” (v. 5, 11). Remember that even before our current circumstances, there were things that would try to keep us from true worship and fellowship with God. We have always been surrounded by distractions. Whatever your situations is, take comfort in the fact that God is still present and your hope is in Him. Let your joy come from Him and enter His gates with thanksgiving for the many opportunities for worship that we do have (albeit sometimes non-traditional and uncomfortable opportunities).
Have you ever walked into worship or opened your Bible for your quiet time knowing that your heart just wasn’t right? Knowing that you have just uttered snide or angry comments to a friend or family member? When I find myself in this situation, I also generally find myself walking away discouraged, convicted, and without blessing as I know that my heart was not pure and I was not truly seeking God in and for His glory. It’s not a good feeling.
This Psalm reminds the Israelites of God’s greatness and power. It reminds them that He created all things and is sovereign over them. God desires good things for His people who come to worship in His presence. However, something else this Psalm discusses is who exactly will receive His blessing.
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
The Israelites were reminded of the importance of their motives as they approached worship. Were their hearts genuinely seeking and hungering for God and had their actions toward others been pleasing to God? Our attitude and motives toward worship matter. We are approaching the King of Glory who is “the Lord, strong and mighty” (v.8). We are approaching the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Focusing on His glory and seeking after Him is an act of intentionality. This won’t happen by accident, and it won’t happen with good intentions. I challenge you (as I challenge myself!) to be intentional in your approach as you take the time to search and prepare your heart to be in His presence, seeking His glory and blessing.
Often times in our world of constant communication and stimulation, it becomes difficult to pause and refocus on the majesty of God as our Creator King. Over the past month, I have begun to spend more time outdoors. As a result, I have slowly realized the extent to which I regularly neglect to appreciate God’s greatness in our physical world, instead choosing other distractions to fill my time.
Psalm 8 is written as a hymn of praise fully focused on God’s majesty and the beauty of His relationship with man. Verses 3-4 beg the question, with all of the detail put into the creation of the universe, how is it that God would care for mere men, even tasking us with the care of His other creations?
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man the you care for him?
Take a minute and read that again, then let it sink in. God is greater than our minds can ever fully comprehend, and yet He is “mindful” of man. When I think of being mindful of someone, I picture investment, not passively thinking about someone, but truly becoming invested in their life. With so many things pulling for our attention in this world, it’s difficult for us to be fully mindful at times. However, God, the ruler and creator of all things, is truly mindful of us. He genuinely cares for us and provides for us. He desires a relationship with us as His image bearers.
This itself stops me in my tracks and leaves me almost speechless as I realize the gravity and magnificence of the grace and mercy he bestows on me. There is nothing that I have done to deserve His attention, and there is nothing that I have done to deserve His love and care. So I leave you with this encouragement: take time to reflect on God’s majesty and glorious creation. Reflect on the care He has for you. Seek to glorify our great God in all that you do, from the words of your mouth to the places you tread. Lastly, praise Him with exuberance for He is worthy!