Psalms 148-150

Read Psalms 148-150.

Have you every played the tambourine? It’s tremendously fun. When you hold a tambourine, you can’t help put shake it around and try out some rhythms. They’re loud, they’re fun, and they make music more exciting. Some people even bring their own tambourines to church.

In these three psalms, we see a clear theme: Praise the Lord! These psalms encourage all of creation to praise God with everything we’ve got.

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

Psalm 150:3-6, ESV

Trumpets! Strings and pipe! Lute and harp! Loud clashing cymbals! Tambourine and dance!

I do not think this is an extensive or exclusive list of tools we can use to praise our God, but it is a great frame of reference for how we should approach worship. Worship should be exciting and celebratory because God is worthy of that response and so much more. The references to praising Him with tambourines in Psalms 149 and 150 give us a great parallel for our worship today. When you’re holding a tambourine, you can’t help but play it. When you behold the glory of God, you can’t help but praise Him.

2 Samuel 24, Psalm 24

Read 2 Samuel 24, Psalm 24.

Reading through Psalm 24, I was drawn to these verses:

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
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.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24:3-6, ESV

These are great questions. Who can approach God? What are the requirements to be with Him? David writes in the psalm that it requires clean hands and a pure heart, and that with those things we may receive blessing and righteousness. But our hands are not clean; they are stained. Our hearts are not pure; they are contaminated and deceitful.

Who possesses these qualities? Jesus is the only one. His death on the cross was payment for our sins. Because of His sacrifice our hands are clean and our hearts are His. It is only because of Jesus that we have any hope to ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place. It is only through Jesus that we will receive blessing and righteousness.

1 Samuel 3, 8

Read 1 Samuel 3, 8.

9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

1 Samuel 3:9-10, ESV

In 1 Samuel 3, we see this almost-comical situation. The Lord is calling out to Samuel, but Samuel has never heard the Lord before. Naturally, he assumes that Eli is calling him. When you hear someone call your name, your first guess is probably that it was someone in the next room, not the Creator of the universe. With Eli’s help, Samuel is able to respond correctly on the fourth try.

How many tries would it take God to reach you? Maybe we don’t hear an audible voice, but we can experience God calling us in different ways. We can feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Lord calls, we should all strive to respond the way Samuel does. “Speak, for your servant hears.”

Judges 13-14

Read Judges 13-14.

In Judges 13 and 14, we get a thorough introduction of Samson, the twelfth judge of Israel.

24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him.

Judges 13:24, ESV

You may have heard of Samson before. In these chapters we see his birth foretold as well as a list of things he should not do as a Nazirite, someone set apart for service to God. After he is born, the text jumps ahead to show an adult Samson doing some crazy things. He picks out a fiance. He tears a lion apart with his bare hands. Later on, he eats honey that he finds in the carcass of that same lion. He presents a riddle about said honey and lion. He loses a bet regarding said riddle and kills thirty men in order to use their belongings to square up on that bet.

Why is Samson’s story, even just what we’ve seen in Judges 14, important? So far we’ve seen him killing guys and breaking lion’s faces. Eating honey. By today’s standards, Samson is a fairly chaotic person. But he is also one of the judges sent by God to rescue Israel from their enemies. God’s plans are being accomplished in part by the actions of this long-haired strongman. We can learn so much from Samson’s story, but for today, the main point is that God can work through anybody.

Deuteronomy 30-31

Read Deuteronomy 30-31.

When I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I forgot my retainer at home. Fearing that my teeth would take advantage of the newfound wiggle room, I called home and asked my mother to send it in the mail. Everything turned out fine. For a few days, though, my retainer was too far away to keep my teeth on the straight and narrow.

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14, ESV

The people of Israel are being reminded in this passage that what they are supposed to do is not a mystery. It’s not too far away or too hard to grasp. We are called to do the same things today: love God and obey His commands. Like teeth after braces we sometimes need help to keep us on the straight and narrow, but that help is never too far away. We have the Bible available to us and the Holy Spirit guiding us from within.

Numbers 34-35

Read Numbers 34-35.

What are your limits? Where are your borders?

We know that God is all-powerful and that through Him all things are possible, but that doesn’t mean we as humans are capable of growing infinitely and accomplishing endlessly. Just as God gives us the power to overcome obstacles and do great things for His glory, He also establishes our limits.

12 And the border shall go down to the Jordan, and its limit shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land as defined by its borders all around.

Numbers 34:12, ESV

In Numbers 34, God is laying out clearly-defined borders for the land of Canaan. While His provision and plan for us at the current moment may not always come with such explicit detail, His plan is just as intricate and specific as it was in these chapters. We have been placed in a specific time and place on purpose, so that we can respond to God and live for Him in a way that serves His greater plan.

Leviticus 26

Read Leviticus 26.

In Leviticus 26 we see a fairly extensive list of blessings that God would give Israel for their obedience, followed by an equally extensive list of punishments for their disobedience. The people are left with a pretty clear image of possible results for their choice to follow or not follow, but God has already given them a reason to obey. Take a look at verse 13:

13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

Leviticus 26:13, ESV

God had already proven that He wanted the best for the Israelites by freeing them from slavery, and the continued call for the people to follow Him is woven into this chapter. The same message is true for us today. He is the Lord our God; He freed us from our sin, and He is calling us to choose to follow His commands.

Exodus 34-36:1

Read Exodus 34-36:1.

The thing that stood out to me in these chapters was this description, given in Exodus 35:

29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.

Exodus 35:29, ESV

Although it may sound cliche to say so, this is such a great example of God’s people working together. There was work commanded by God, and the people of Israel felt moved to get it done. Together was the only way it could happen.

We need to work together. Our church. The church. There is still work to do, and our hearts are still moving us to do our part. Maybe we are being called to contribute time or money or another crucial piece of the puzzle. When God lets us know, we should be quick to say yes to being a part of the team.

Exodus 24-25

Last year I accidentally shattered the storm door on the front of my house. It turns out rocks hidden in the grass go flying pretty fast when you set the mower deck too short (I learned that lesson twice). After some work with the shop vac and a trip to the storm door store, I set about installing what I assumed would be a fully-assembled-out-of-the-box storm door. My assumption was wrong, and the rest of my project involved working through a long list of instructions.

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

Exodus 25:8-9, ESV

Exodus 25 is forty verses of instructions, and if you read ahead a little bit, you’ll see that there are many more verses of instructions to follow. God is very specific regarding exactly how Moses and the people of Israel are to construct the tabernacle and its contents. He sets a high standard and leaves practically nothing to be decided by the Israelites.

The reward for following the instructions on my storm door project was . . . a storm door. The reward for following the instructions given by God in Exodus was truly about as good as it gets: the Almighty God dwelling with His people. As Christians today, we look toward our ultimate reward in Heaven, but we also experience the joy of serving our God here on earth.

What kind of instructions or directions are you getting from God, and how are you following those today?

Exodus 10-11

These chapters of Exodus contain accounts of the eighth and ninth plagues as well as the threat of the tenth and final plague of Egypt. Reading through the book up to this point, I have had one recurring thought: one plague would have been enough for me. Water starts turning into blood, and I’m doing whatever Moses says. But this is not what we see in Exodus, even when plague number ten is nearly at Pharaoh’s door.

10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Exodus 11:10, ESV

How often do we listen and obey when God speaks? It is unlikely that we are being commanded to set the Israelites free, but there could at any moment be a specific call for us. We see a huge difference of outcome between the obedience of Moses and the unwillingness of Pharaoh. When you experience God shaping your life, it is always best to trust and obey.