Psalm Saturday: Psalm 63 Praise God!

Psalm 63 is one of my personal favorites. I recently completed a devotional study involving Psalm 63 with a friend of mine. We were both blown away by the richness of this psalm written by David while he found himself in the desert wilderness of Judah.

When Sweet T and I were in Israel back in 2012, we learned that the wilderness of Judah isn’t what we typically envision in our mind’s eye when our ears hear the word “wilderness.” To be sure, it is certainly a vast area out in the wild. But instead of a treasure trove of trees, the Judean wilderness is a sea of sand sprinkled with ancient caves.

David found himself hiding here, on the run from his son, Absalom, who wanted to kill him. Absalom was the third son of David, the King of Israel, with his wife Maacah, daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur. The story of Absalom is primarily told in the six chapters found in 2 Samuel 13-19.

In a story of misguided good intentions gone bad, Absalom’s life goes from avenging the rape of his sister Tamar by their half-brother Ammon to leading a conspiracy to overthrow his own father, King David. David’s family life certainly demonstrates the gamut of emotions, relationships, and challenges involved in preserving the family bloodline. Families can be complicated.

Psalm Saturday_Title Slide

David found himself hiding in the wilderness of Judah multiple times throughout his life. In a way, his time-out in the desert serve as a metaphor describing the spiritual deserts we find ourselves in from time to time.

When we first come to know God and receive salvation through His son Jesus Christ, are souls are on fire, overflowing with joy and spiritual fervency. As we continue along on our faith journey, we find ourselves meandering through spiritual dry places, akin to the deserts of Judah. While it may seem like a time to rely on our own wits and set aside our worship, the exact opposite is true. Our wilderness moments are times for us to rely on God more and to focus our hearts on worshipping Him.

God is for You

Just as David did, we find relief as we praise God. Our spiritual thirst and hunger grow satisfied the more satisfied we become in Him. When we recall God’s supernatural ability to meet our every need, our spirits are lifted, and we are refreshed and invigorated, ready to return to civilization and turn our challenges into opportunities.

We experience this phenomenon when we take our minds off our trouble and express gratitude for our blessings. When we experience difficulties in our life, it can be easy to focus on the negative, rather than looking at the positive. It’s easy to pick out what’s wrong rather than recognize what’s right. Before we know it, we’re on our pity pot, wailing about our woes. This trap leads us nowhere.

In Psalm 63, David reminds us that through praise and worship we have the power to overcome whatever ails us. As spiritual beings, our souls long for God. It is a God-sized hole that is only satisfied when we meet the Lord through His son, Jesus. In Him, through Him, and by Him, we have everything our soul and heart desires.

Troubled? Praise God.

Peace go with you.

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Psalm 63

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

 

Psalm Saturday: Song of Ascents

Psalms 120 through 134 are called the Psalm, or Song, of Ascents. Four of the psalms are ascribed to David (Psalms 122, 124,131, and 133). One (Psalm 127) is credited to Solomon. It is believed that these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem during the annual pilgrimage festivals.

Sweet T and I had the profound experience of participating in a recreation of this worship tradition during our 2012 trip to Israel with a group from our church led by Todd Bolen. Our group recited these psalms aloud as we climbed the stone steps on the south side of the Temple Mount. Walking where millions of sandals had stepped before us in ancient times was a humbling and deeply inspirational moment of worship.

Jesus had walked here.

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“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.”

Deuteronomy 16:16 (ESV)

Reciting the Pslams of Ascent

Worshippers would enter the Temple from these southern steps, three times a year, after the prescribed cleansing in the adjacent ritual baths, or mikvot.

Tradition and ritual serve an important purpose in our lives. Yes, we tend to rebel and revolt against such things in our modern 21st century society. Even our church culture tends to distance itself from the relics of ritual and tradition. Some of that, of course, is for good reason. However, not all custom and ceremony should be cast onto the woodpile waiting for the fire to consume it.

Throughout history, diverse cultures, and numerous religions recognized the value and importance of reminders and repetition. Early Jewish cultures understood the necessity of rehearsing truth while living in a world that countered God’s Word at every turn. Today, we recognize the need to remind ourselves of God’s truth as Christians living in 21st century America during this tumultuous period in world history. Without reiterating it, God’s truth can be drowned out by the resounding dissonance resonating from the public square proclaiming faith, prayer, and worship are misguided at best, if not utterly impotent and useless.

The thousands that made the pilgrimage and recited the Psalms of Ascent from memory several times a year were reminded of the keys of life such as faith, forgiveness, grace, mercy family, children, community; peace, hope, love; brotherhood and sacrifice. Practicing this thrice-yearly ritual helped them maintain right attitudes toward the Lord and toward others.

Naturally, tradition and ritual can not save us. Scripture makes it clear only faith in Jesus can accomplish our salvation. But, as with our forefathers and our ancestors, repetition and observance of our cultural and religious practices help remind us of the difficulties and challenges we have overcome and serve as milestones guiding us along the path forward.

They remind us of who’s we are. 

Ascending the Southern Steps

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. ’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.

Mark 12:28-30 (NLT)

Giving God priority and treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated empowers us to leave a lasting thumbprint on the world we inhabit and the people we encounter.

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Deliver Me, O Lord

A Song of Ascents

Psalm 120

In my distress I called to the Lord,

and he answered me.

Deliver me, O Lord,

from lying lips,

from a deceitful tongue.

What shall be given to you,

and what more shall be done to you,

you deceitful tongue?                                                        

A warrior’s sharp arrows,

with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech,

that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!

Too long have I had my dwelling

among those who hate peace.

 I am for peace,

but when I speak, they are for war!

Come, Bless the Lord

A Song of Ascents

Psalm 134

1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

2   Lift up your hands to the holy place

and bless the Lord!

3  May the Lord bless you from Zion,

he who made heaven and earth!

 

 

Psalm Saturday: Praise the Lord!

Good morning. I hope your Saturday is off to a fantastic start. For this week’s edition of Psalm Saturday, we will focus on the beautiful Psalm 146. Last night, during our monthly chapel service at Union Gospel Mission Dallas, Ann Bailey, recited this psalm from memory. What a blessing! Ann and her husband Bill have been faithfully ministering to the homeless men at the Mission for about 15 years. They are an incredible couple who model godliness and a humble servant’s heart. Terri and I have had the privilege of serving with them since 2011.

 

We have a fantastic 4th Friday outreach team, of which the Bailey’s are a huge part. There’s Ed Czarnecki and Matt and Laurie Newby, and Michael Garrett (CEO of Trusted World), and our newest member Kurt Doty. Terri and I are richer for having them in our lives. And then there are the chaplains and the clients at UGM. They are incredible blessings as well. They remind us of how much we have to be grateful for each time we visit.

In our time there, I’ve had the privilege of preaching numerous messages, presenting the Gospel and God’s truth, in an unabated, unapologetic way. We’re not shy about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the men. But perhaps the greatest privilege has been the opportunity to pray with hundreds of men, many of whom have placed their faith and trust in Jesus for their salvation.

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It is these moments that remind me of the words the psalmist wrote in Psalm 146. I will praise the Lords as long as I live.

Psalm 146 reminds us that God is good–all the time–and all the time–God is good!!!

Blessings.

Psalm 146 (NLT)

1 Praise the Lord!

Let all that I am praise the Lord.
2     I will praise the Lord as long as I live.
    I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.

3 Don’t put your confidence in powerful people;
    there is no help for you there.
4 When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,
    and all their plans die with them.
5 But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them.
    He keeps every promise forever.
7 He gives justice to the oppressed
    and food to the hungry.
The Lord frees the prisoners.
8     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.
    The Lord loves the godly.
9 The Lord protects the foreigners among us.
    He cares for the orphans and widows,
    but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

10 The Lord will reign forever.
    He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations.

Praise the Lord!