Praise the Lord

Scripture: Psalm 117, ‘Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!’

 

Observations: Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, just 2 verses (or just 12 words in the original Hebrew). It starts and finishes with the word Hallelujah, or ‘praise the Lord,’ which is reinforced by the phrase ‘extol him, all peoples.’ As far as I can tell to ‘extol’ someone is to praise them, they pretty much have the same meaning. And the psalmist gives two reasons to praise the Lord. The first is because of the ‘greatness’ of his ‘steadfast love.’ The word ‘great’ can be translated as mighty, or powerful, or superior. And the phrase ‘steadfast love’ translates the Hebrew word ‘hesed,’ which refers to God’s covenantal love, a love that never fails, that is steadfast, or dependable. Secondly, we are to praise the Lord because his ‘faithfulness endures forever.’ The word faithfulness ‘emeth,’ is another significant Hebrew word that describes God’s trustworthiness, the fact that God will remain true to his promises. The point the psalmist is making is that our hope and joy and peace are founded on God’s love and faithfulness. If we are in a covenant relationship with God we are in the best place possible. We have every reason to praise the Lord.

 

Application: Firstly, do you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Have you experienced God’s love in Jesus? Has God promised to forgive all your sins through your faith in Jesus’ death on the cross? God’s steadfast love and faithfulness are only experienced through faith in Jesus. Jesus is the expression of God’s love, and the fulfilment of his promises. If you have experienced God’s love and faithfulness, then praise the Lord. Praise him through singing, praise him through music, praise him with his people. Praise him by exercising your spiritual gifts, praise him through your sacrificial giving, praise him in your service. Praise him through your work, praise him in your daily life, praise him with your every breathe! Praise the Lord!

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You because of Your steadfast love that You have shown towards me in so many ways, but especially through Your Son, Jesus who died for me and through his death reconciled me with You. Lord, I praise You for making me Your child, when I deserved Your condemnation. I praise You for Your faithfulness, that despite my failings and my sins, You never give up on me. Lord, I extol You because You are the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and You are worthy of all honour and praise. Lord, may I praise You will all that I am. May I show my love for You with all my soul, mind and strength. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. 

God's Deliverance

Scripture: Psalm 116:8-9, ‘For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.’

 

Observations: The Psalmist talks about a near death experience, where ‘the snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol (or the grave) laid hold on me. (v3)’ He doesn’t describe his circumstances other than to say that he was ‘greatly afflicted (v10)’ and that the Lord had ‘loosed his bonds. (v16, which may just be referring to the ‘snares of death.’)’ But whatever the circumstances were he called on the name of the Lord, who graciously delivered him (v4-7). The Lord delivered his soul from death, his eyes from tears, and his feet from stumbling. It’s possible that the idea of stumbling may refer to sin, in which case these three things may describe his physical, emotional and spiritual state. Whatever the case the result is that he ‘will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.’ The term ‘walk’ often refers to our ‘spiritual walk’ especially when it’s connected with the phrase ‘before the Lord.’ The Psalmist actually goes on to describe how he will respond to the Lord for his deliverance (v12-19).

 

Application: You may have experienced God’s deliverance from a near death experience, or maybe from something less serious, but as Christians we have all experienced God’s deliverance from our sins and an eternity in hell. And we may have experienced God’s deliverance form our tears we look forward to the day when all our tears will be wiped away. And while we experience God’s deliverance from particular sins we look forward to the day when we will be made perfect. We have experienced the deliverance of the Lord, and like the psalmist we have been given the opportunity to ‘walk before the Lord in the land of the living.’ In light of your deliverance how are you walking?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You have saved me from death, not in the sense that I won’t die, but in the fact that death no longer has any hold over me. Like Your Son Jesus rose from the grave so too will I rise to eternal life. And Lord, You have filled my life with joy and hope, You have delivered me from tears, and I look forward to the day when there will be no more sadness or pain. And Lord, You have delivered my life from sin. Keep my from stumbling that I may walk in Your ways and for Your glory. Lord, because of Your mercy and grace I will praise You as long as I live. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

To God be the Glory

Scripture: Psalm 115:1, ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!’

 

Observations: Psalm 115 starts with a radical statement of selflessness. The Psalmist asks the Lord to glorify, not his people, but himself. The fact that he repeats himself makes his desire emphatic, the only person who deserves glory is the Lord, because the Lord is loving and faithful. The Psalmist then goes on to discuss four huge themes. The first is that God is unlike other gods, because they are nothing but idols and those who worship them will come to nothing (v2-8). Next, the Psalmist begs God’s people to trust in the Lord (v9-11). Then he reminds God’s people that those who trust the Lord will be blessed (v12-15). Finally, the Psalmist says that the dead don’t praise the Lord, rather that’s our job (v16-18). God is worthy of glory and praise because he is God, he is trustworthy and faithful, he lovingly blesses his people.

 

Application: It’s not that we don’t do anything that’s praiseworthy, rather we just don’t come close to God. God is by far more deserving of praise and glory then we are. And yet we make life more about ourselves then about God. We think we deserve to be blessed, that we deserve to be recognized, that we deserve things to go right. But the truth is those things are a gift from God, and therefore he deserves our trust and our praise. How much do you live each day for yourself, and how much for God? Do you say ‘to my name be glory,’ rather than ‘to Your name O Lord, be glory?’

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You are worthy of all trust and glory and praise, because You are the Lord of the heavens and the earth, because You are loving and faithful, because You pour out blessing on the undeserving. And yet Lord, so often I don’t give You glory, instead I live my life as if I am the center of the universe, as if I deserve the good things You give me. Lord, forgive my preoccupation with myself, and open my eyes to Your grandeur and grace. Change my heart that in everything I do I will acknowledge You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

God's Presence Transforms

Scripture: Psalm 114:7-8, ‘Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.’

 

Observations: Psalm 114 talks about how God rescued his people from Egypt and made a way through the Red Sea and across the Jordan into the Promised Land. The Psalmist sees in these events ‘the presence of the Lord.’ In these final verses the psalmist mentions how God ‘turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.’ It’s likely that the Psalmist is thinking of the two times that Moses struck rock during the Exodus and water came forth (Ex 17:6; Num 20:11, see Dt 8:15).The point is that God can take the seemingly impossible and turn it into a blessing. Bare rock can become a pool of water, and hard flint into a spring.

 

Applications: What are the dry areas, or the areas of hardness in your life? Maybe you feel spiritually dry, or your relationships are emotionally dry, or maybe you have to deal with someone who has a hard heart. When we face these things on our own they can seem impossible situations, but when God is present he can soften the hardest of hearts, he can breathe new life into our relationships, including our relationship with him. Like the Israelites who cried out to the Lord, maybe we need to cry out to the Lord and ask him to come down and turn our rocky places into pools of water, and our hard-hearts into springs of living water.

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, the truth is that often the dry and hard parts of my life are due to the fact that I am walking through life on my own. Lord, forgive my independence, and help me to seek You and Your blessing. Lord, help me to live my life in Your presence. Lord, may my life tremble before You. May the rocky parts of my life become pools of water. May the hard parts of my life become springs. Lord, change me and make me more like Your Son, Jesus Christ my Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Who is like our God?

Scripture: Psalm 113:5, ‘Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?’

 

Observations: These sorts of questions are rhetorical in nature, because the answer is meant to be obvious – there is no one like the Lord our God! When the psalmist talks about God being ‘seated on high,’ he means that he is the highest there is, there is no one above, or greater, than our God. Even in the ancient world this was a unique statement. The gods of ancient civilizations were either a part of a pantheon i.e. one of many, and you could argue who was the greatest, or the gods were fixed to a certain location, and again you could argue who was the greatest. But for the Jews ‘the Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! (v4)’ But even more than that the Lord helps his people. The Psalmist mentions two examples: the Lord lifts up the poor and needs and seats them amongst princes (v7-8), and he gives children to barren women (v9). And the only proper response is to praise him. In fact, we’re to bless his name ‘from this time forth and forevermore! (v2)’ And we’re to praise him ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting. (v3)’

 

Application: Can you say ‘who is like the Lord?’ Have you experienced the greatness of God in your life? Maybe you have experienced his provision, or protection at some point in your life. Maybe like the psalmist you were once needy, but then God richly blessed you, or you were once barren and God enabled you to have children. But one thing all of God’s people have experienced is his love and grace displayed in Jesus’ death on the cross. We can say ‘Who is like our God who sends his own Son to die in our place? Who is like our God who shows sinners with mercy and grace? Who is like our God who adopts their enemies as his own children?’

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, there is no one like You, for You are above all things, Your glory is above the heavens. But even more You love those whom You have created, You love me, and You sent Your Son, Jesus to die in my place so that I could be reconciled with You. And You show Your great love for me in so many ways. Lord, You give me life and purpose, You fill me life with hope and joy, You uphold me in the difficult times, You forgive me again and again, even though I deserve Your condemnation. Lord, You treat me as a cherished son. Lord, forgive me when I don’t honour You with every breath that I take. Help me to praise You from the moment I wake until the moment I fall to sleep. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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