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June 8 – July 7 (30 days); due April 20:

 

Jun 8—What’s Your Motive?

Read Proverbs 21

Proverbs 21:1 teaches that the hearts of the rulers of this world are under the sovereign control of our God. What comfort! Not only are the hearts of kings open to him, however: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (v. 2). What does he see when he searches our hearts?

What is God’s evaluation of a proud heart? “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin” (v.4). Other translations render verse 4 much differently. The ESV, for example, reads, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.”  Ultimately, the verse means the same thing.  If haughty eyes and a proud heart are the lamps that guides the wicked, even his plowing is sinful, for “two things are required to make an action right. One is that it be lawful in itself. The other is that it be done with a right motive. If the thing done is itself wrong, no motives can make it right. On the other hand, the thing done may be right in itself, but the motive which governs us may be wrong, and so the act may be sinful because the motive is sinful” (William Plumer). Sing or pray Psalter #384.

 

Jun 9—Train Up a Child

Read Proverbs 22

Proverbs 22:6 reminds parents that the calling to train their children in Jehovah’s ways is their highest privilege and greatest responsibility. How often we parents neglect that duty because of misplaced priorities and busy schedules!

[Children] must be trained to understand and interpret their behavior in terms of heart motivation… The goal of correction is not simply to modify behavior, but to bring the child to sweet, harmonious, and humble heart submission to God’s will that he obey Mom and Dad…The child trained in biblical obedience [and the parent, who knows how difficult that godly training is!] is better able to understand the gospel. The power and grace of the gospel is most deeply understood, not by those who never face their biblical duties, but by those who do (Ted Tripp).

Proverbs 22:15 warns against refusing to discipline our children. Left to themselves, they will pursue the way of the fool. The duties of Christian parenting are not that complicated. In fact, they’re very straightforward. What’s difficult is the consistency that’s required of us for those means to be effective! Let’s pray for the grace we need to be diligent. Sing or pray Psalter #359.

 

Jun 10—The Glutton and the Drunkard

Read Proverbs 23

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, a “foodie” is “a person who enjoys and cares about food very much.” One won’t find the word “foodie” in Proverbs 23, but a term that is perhaps more accurate: “glutton.” How serious is gluttony? So serious that Solomon commands, “Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite” (v. 2). Philippians 3:19 describes “enemies of the cross of Christ” this way: “Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” A glutton worships his stomach. Proverbs 23 also contains many warnings to the drunkard.  Like the glutton, “the drunkard…will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (v. 22). For all alcohol promises to deliver, in the end “it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder” (v. 32).

We need grace not to make idols out of food and drink. Rather, those pleasures should point us to far more wonderful spiritual realities like partaking of Jesus Christ by faith, the communion of the saints, and the heavenly bliss that awaits all who are in Christ Jesus. Sing or pray Psalter #288.

 

Jun 11—Be Diligent

Read Proverbs 24

Proverbs 24:1 warns against envying or joining evil men. In contrast to evil, which produces destruction, wisdom establishes one’s house (v.2).  And it’s not earthly riches that make that home a pleasant place to be; it is knowledge (v. 3).  As Job taught, that knowledge can’t be mined like gold or silver. “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

My neighbor’s yard looks like the field of the slothful man in Proverbs 24:30–32.  Where it’s not overgrown with thistles and waist-high weeds, it’s heaped with piles of junk.  In contrast to the slothful, a diligent man tends his fields well, for his substance is precious (Prov. 12:27b). How well are we tending our gardens? Do we water our marriages with thoughtfulness and godly communication? Do we pull out the weeds of sin that threaten to choke the communion we’re called to have with our parents or our children? Our other relationships require constant nurture as well, and so do our spiritual lives. Do we feed our daily walk with the word of God, water it with prayer, and weed it by living in fellowship with the other members of Christ’s body? Sing or pray Psalter #40.

 

Jun 12—Temple Builders

Read 1 Kings 5

Solomon reigns, and, as Jehovah promised, he gives David’s son rest. Solomon begins the work of building the temple by making a league with Hiram, King of Tyre. In exchange for the cedar and fir wood that grew abundantly in that coastal nation, Israel would trade them food. Solomon raises a levy of 30,000 men. This levy isn’t a tax but a draft of forced laborers. Samuel had foretold this in 1 Samuel 8:11–16. In addition, 150,000 strangers served the house of God (see 2 Chron. 2:17 and Josh. 9:21–27). Were the men who built the temple “filled with the Spirit of God,” “wise-hearted” men, “in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even everyone whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it” (Ex. 31:3 and Ex. 36:2)? That’s the way the tabernacle builders were described.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory and now rules from his heavenly throne. Though he has entered his rest, he is not inactive. Rather, “He is using His wisdom to enlist people from the nations to build His living temple, the church” (Reformation Heritage Study KJV Bible). Do we devote ourselves to that cause as willing, Spirit-filled laborers? Sing or pray Psalter #368.

 

Jun 13—The Temple of God

Read 1 Kings 6

The temple was built in reverent silence. Similarly, Christ builds his church without “Ostentatious display or fanfare” (Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible). “Clamor and violence…never further [the work of God]” (Matthew Henry). The Hebrew suggests that the temple’s windows were broad on the inside but narrow on the outside (v. 4). Henry explains, “Such should the eyes of our mind be, reflecting nearer on ourselves than on other people, looking much within to judge ourselves, but little without to censure our brethren.” The temple was twice the size of the tabernacle and included chambers on its sides, which were built three stories high and used for storage, and two large cherubim that guarded the ark of the covenant. “Solomon made everything new, except the ark…the token of God’s presence…is always the same with His people whether they meet in tent or temple…” (Ibid).

Glorious as it was, God’s presence in the temple depended on king’s obedience (v. 12). Our King, Jesus Christ, is greater than the temple (Matt. 12:6). On the basis of his perfect righteousness, we are assured of God’s presence forever. Sing or pray Psalter #243.

 

Jun 14—Great is our God

Read 2 Chronicles 2

What 1 Kings 6 describes in one chapter, 2 Chronicles details in several chapters, for the temple is central to the chronicler’s plot. Remember, 1 and 2 Chronicles were written around the end of the Old Testament, during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In his recounting of Israel’s history, the author emphasized heartfelt worship of Jehovah and God’s presence with his people. He intended to encourage true worship of Jehovah among the exiles who had returned to Canaan and point them to the Son of David in whom God’s promises would be finally and fully fulfilled. These people faced much opposition in re-building God’s temple and were tempted by the same sins that had led Solomon astray (Neh. 13:26). They needed the reminder of 2 Chronicles 2:5: “Great is our God above all gods…the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him.” Though even Solomon’s beautiful temple could not contain so great a God, the temple was necessary for Jehovah’s people, for there they would enter his presence through sacrifice (v. 6c).

Through the one sacrifice of our savior, we have access by faith into God’s gracious presence. Do we daily resort there through his word and prayer? Sing or pray Psalter #132.

 

Jun 15—God’s Tabernacle with Men

Read 2 Chronicles 3

Many years before Solomon ruled, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, and there he provided a ram in Isaac’s place (Gen. 22:2). On that mountain also David built an altar to turn away God’s wrath by sacrifice following his sin of numbering the people (1 Chron. 21:18). Now Solomon built the temple there. There Jehovah would dwell among his people: “those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50.5).

Many things about the temple pointed back to the Garden of Eden: the palm trees and pomegranates, the cherubim guarding the entrance to the most holy place, and the gold. Those things also point forward to the new heavens and earth, for the book of Revelation describes heaven using many of the same images.

In heaven, the tabernacle of God will be with his people. “God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:3–4). Sing or pray Psalter #350.

 

Jun 16—Abundant Offerings

Read 2 Chronicles 4

1 Chronicles 4 begins with a description of the brazen altar of burnt offering, which is omitted from the parallel account in 1 Kings 6. The temple’s altar is very large, approximately 30’ by 30’ by 15’ high. In contrast, the altar constructed for the tabernacle was about 7 ½’ by 7 ½’ by 4 ½’ high. Why the difference in size? First, the tabernacle and its furnishings had to be transportable. Second, “Now that Israel had become both numerous and more rich…it was expected that there would be a greater abundance of offerings brought to God’s altar than had been. It was therefore made such a capacious scaffold…God had greatly enlarged their borders; it was therefore fit that they should enlarge his altars” (Matthew Henry). Already at the dedication of the temple Solomon and all the congregation of Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen “which could not be told nor numbered for multitude” (1 Chron. 5:6).

God has given us spiritual and material abundance. Do our returns “bear some proportion to our receivings?” (Ibid). Sing or pray Psalter #311.

 

Jun 17—As One

Read 2 Chronicles 5

The glorious temple was complete. The tabernacle and its furnishings were replaced with things larger and more lavish, except for the ark, which symbolized God’s presence in Christ. “For the presence and the grace of God are the same in little assemblies that they are in large ones, in the poor condition of the church that they are in its prosperous estate” (Matthew Henry). It, along with the tabernacle and its furnishings, the elders and Levites solemnly bring to Jerusalem. Solomon and the congregation greet the ark with innumerable sacrifices. It is placed in the most holy place, and as the singers and trumpeters lift praise and thanks as with one voice, Jehovah’s glory fills the tabernacle.

I thought of this passage during the combined PR high school choir concert this past April 12, as nearly 300 young voices, accompanied by instruments, sang, “One in Christ, we lift our voice.” What a glorious testimony to the truth that the song of praise and thanksgiving delights our heavenly Father more than sacrifice (Ps. 69:30–31). And it is when his people praise him in unity that he commands his blessing (Ps. 133). Sing or pray Psalter #186.

 

Jun 18—His Mercy Endures Forever!

Read Psalm 136

Psalm 136 begins with three commands to thank Jehovah, the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the God of wonders. The psalmist first lists Jehovah’s wonders in creation (vv. 4–9). He then recounts Jehovah’s wonderful redemption of his people, his providential care for them, and the bountiful, undeserved inheritance he has given them (vv.10–24). The psalm comes full circle when the psalmist acknowledges Jehovah’s sustenance of all his creatures (v. 25) before once more enjoining his people to thank him (v. 26).

Psalm 136 is unique and memorable because of its refrain, the same refrain with which the trumpeters and singers praised Jehovah at the dedication of the temple (2 Chron. 5:13). Perhaps that refrain strikes us as unduly repetitive, especially when we hear the psalm read aloud. But that repetition is not without purpose. The psalmist would have us consider the greatest wonder of all: the God of wonders loves sinners like you and me. What a wonder that his mercy—his steadfast, committed love for his covenant people—is the reason for all things! And his love for us endures forever. Sing or pray Psalter #378.

 

Jun 19—Jehovah’s Dwelling Place

Read 1 Kings 8

1 Kings 8 also records the bringing of the ark to the temple. Then follows Solomon’s prayer of dedication. Solomon had built a house for God, yet he realized, “The heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee” (v. 27). Repeatedly he prays that when Jehovah’s people prayed toward the temple, Jehovah would hear—not from the temple, but from heaven, his dwelling place.

The prophet Jeremiah foretold the new dispensation in which the temple wouldn’t be needed; indeed, even the ark of the covenant would not be remembered nor come into mind (Jer. 3:16). We are privileged to live in that new dispensation: “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven…and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:22–24). Our God now dwells within the members of Christ’s body by his Holy Spirit. Do you experience his powerful, sanctifying presence today? Sing or pray Psalter #141.

 

Jun 20—Solomon’s Prayer

Read 2 Chronicles 6

Throughout Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, he assumed that Jehovah’s people would pray to him from inside or facing toward the temple. The temple “was a shadow: the substance is Christ; whatever we ask in his name, it shall be given us” (Matthew Henry). Also, Solomon prayed for forgiveness with the understanding that true confession of sin includes turning from that sin, followed by walking in Jehovah’s ways (vv. 26–27). Are our lives characterized by such true repentance? Solomon expressed the desire that all people might fear God along with Israel, and he assumed that this would happen, for they would hear of Jehovah’s great name. “Thus early…were the indications of favor towards…the Gentiles: as there was then one law for the native and for the stranger (Ex. 12:49), so there was one gospel for both. Herein he aimed at the glory of God and the propagating of the knowledge of him” (Ibid). Is that our desire and aim, too? Finally, Solomon mentioned those who would pray in battle. We’re exhorted to “put on the whole armor of God,” “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:11 and 18). Is that the way in which we confront the enemies that tempt us? Sing or pray Psalter #350.

 

Jun 21—A Better Land

Read 2 Chronicles 7

On the wall of my high school history classroom hung a framed photograph of the United States flag. Below the picture was printed 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Since then, I’ve heard the same text quoted by prominent evangelicals and conservative politicians, often in the context of discussions regarding abortion or homosexuality. Though they may be well-intentioned, my former teacher and those other men and women misapply this verse. Old Testament Israel was God’s chosen, covenant people. They were the church. No one nation represents God’s people now. Nor will the fervent prayers of American Christians turn the tidal wave of wickedness that rushes over our nation. Israel experienced prosperity through repentance and obedience. Likewise, the members of the new testament church, men, and women from all nations, tribes, and tongues, enjoy spiritual prosperity. They, who are joined to Christ by a Spirit-worked faith, “will enjoy God’s presence forever in a better land than Canaan” (Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible). Sing or pray Psalter #230.

 

Jun 22—A Shadow of Heavenly Things

Read 1 Kings 7

1 Kings 7 first summarizes Solomon’s other building projects: his palace, the hall of judgment, where his throne was situated, a palace for Pharaoh’s daughter, his wife, and the large Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, which probably served as a reception/banquet hall. All these buildings were, with the temple, located within a “great court” (v. 9 and 12). Then follows detailed descriptions of Hiram of Tyre’s brass work, which included the large ornamental pillars that framed the entrance to the holy place, named Jachin and Boaz. Hiram also fashioned the enormous molten sea, which had a capacity of about 10,000 gallons. This sea replaced the tabernacle laver and held the water in which the priests washed. And he made ten moveable lavers, each of which held about 240 gallons and in which the steady stream of sacrifices was washed.

Again, the temple and its furnishings served as a shadow of heavenly things, things revealed to us in the New Testament. We have a high priest, “Who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:1–2). Sing or pray Psalter #302.

 

Jun 23—An Imperfect Type (1)

Read 1 Kings 9

When Solomon had completed building, God again appeared to him. Once more Jehovah reiterated his promise: “If you walk in my ways, then I will establish your throne.” Furthermore, the Lord impressed upon Solomon that the welfare of the entire nation is contingent on his obedience. If Solomon leads them into idolatry, Jehovah will cut Israel off. There is a hint of ominous foreshadowing in this second, solemn warning, isn’t there? We know the sad sequel to Solomon’s glorious debut. All the terrible things of which he spoke in his dedicatory prayer—defeat, famine, captivity—will soon come to pass. And he will lead the way. And yet, we also know that Solomon would fail: he must fail. For the people of Israel could not put their trust in a mere man, though they enjoyed unsurpassed peace and prosperity under his rule. They must still look for the Messiah.

Like Solomon, though we know the consequences of sin, too often we don’t do the good that we would (Rom. 7:14). We cannot look for assurance of our salvation in ourselves. We look to Christ. He “is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Sing or pray Psalter #198.

 

Jun 24—An Imperfect Type (2)

Read 2 Chronicles 8

2 Chronicles 8 lists some the cities that marked Solomon’s northernmost borders (vv.3–4). Under Solomon’s rule, the borders of Israel reached their greatest extent. But in this, too, Solomon failed as a type. Solomon desired, “that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel,” but never did he rule over all nations (2 Chron. 6:33). For that reality to be fulfilled, Jehovah’s people were also to look for the Messiah. Revelation 11:15 tells of the day when, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”

Already now, Jesus Christ reigns in the hearts of his people, whom he gathers from the four corners of the earth. Yet still, there are more who must be gathered. Do you pray the Lord of the harvest, “that he will send forth laborers into his harvest”? (Matt. 9:38). Is he calling you to be one of those laborers? Sing or pray Psalter #199.

 

Jun 25—Come, Bless Jehovah

Read Psalm 134

Psalm 134 is the last of the Psalms of Degrees (or Ascent), which begin with Psalm 120. These are pilgrim psalms, songs that God’s people would sing as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship. The pilgrims who speak in Psalm 134 have arrived at God’s house. It is late in the day; perhaps they have been traveling since sunrise. Though weary, they are filled with joy as they arrive at their destination. Once there, they enjoin the Levites serving there to bless Jehovah from their hearts as they perform their outward duties. Perhaps these Levites are night watchmen. Maybe they belonged to the singers, who “were employed in that work day and night” (1 Chron. 9:33). Or perhaps it is the time of Passover, for Passover was a night festival.

These servants of Jehovah respond in verse 3 by pronouncing a blessing upon the pilgrims. They bless them in the name of Jehovah, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. Yet they remind the pilgrims that the Almighty Creator is also their covenant God, who dwells among them: he blesses them out of Zion. Do we bless him at all times? Are his praises continually in our mouths? (Ps. 34:1). Sing or pray Psalter #372.

 

Jun 26—A Grand Finale

Read Psalm 146

Each of the books of Psalms ends with a doxology. Psalms 146–150 comprise the doxology that concludes not only book 5, but the entire book of Psalms.  There are no laments here. No cries for help. Just a sustained “Hallelujah!  Praise Jehovah!” The praise to which we’re called in Ps. 146 is both corporate—“ye” in the KJV denotes a plural “you”—and personal: “Praise the Lord, O my soul” (v. 1b). Vv. 3–4 warn us of the folly of placing our trust in men. Included among those in whom there is no help are our own selves. There is no salvation in our knowledge, strength, frugality, punctuality or perseverance. But “happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help” (v. 5a).

The psalmist then describes Jacob’s God. He is the Creator of all things, executes judgment for the oppressed, loves the righteous, turns the way of the wicked upside down, and reigns forever.  Can you think of anyone else to whom that description belongs?  Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). And the preaching of his gospel still turns the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Sing or pray Psalter #40.

 

Jun 27—Jehovah’s Transforming Word

Read Psalm 147

Psalm 147 contains three calls to praise Jehovah. These appeals, which are found in verses 1, 7, and 12, divide the psalm into three sections. After each call to praise, the psalmist focuses on one or more of God’s attributes as they come to expression in the creation and in his people.

First, the psalmist observes Jehovah’s great power and infinite understanding.  He calls the stars by their names. How can we doubt that he is powerful enough to gather together the outcasts of the church, heal the broken-hearted, lift up the meek, and cast down the wicked? After the second call to praise, the psalmist describes Jehovah’s gracious and sustaining provision for his creation. Do not doubt that he will provide you with all things necessary for body and soul also, but remember, it is not your physical strength that delights him. He takes pleasure in them that fear him. In the third section, the psalmist focuses on the efficacious word of God. God’s word sends the snow and hail, and it is also the transforming power that melts them. That powerful word he entrusted to Israel, the church.  What kind of transformation has (and does) his word work in you? Sing or pray Psalter #402. 

 

Jun 28—The All and the Alone

Read Psalm 148

Psalm 148 is a systematic, all-encompassing call to creation to praise Jehovah. The psalmist begins with the angels and then works his way down to the sun, moon, and stars, earth’s atmosphere, and the clouds.  Then he descends to the lowest parts of the earth and works his way up.  He addresses the mythical creatures that dwell in the depths of the sea, the so-called “elements of nature,” the mountains and hills along with the plants, animals, and birds that populate them, and, finally, he enjoins the king of God’s creation: man. No age, sex, or social status escapes his attention; all are called to praise Jehovah. Why? Because “his name alone is excellent.”

Although all created things belong to Jehovah, the psalmist reserves the possessive pronoun “his” for only two groups. He refers to “his angels” and “his hosts” (v. 2), and he writes of “his saints” (v. 14). These two groups belong to Jehovah in a special way. They are moral, rational beings. The angels “do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word” (Ps. 103:20), and his saints are those in whom he works “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Sing or pray Psalter #405.

 

Jun 29—A Bed and a Sword

Read Psalm 149

Psalm 149 begins again with “Hallelujah!” The Psalmist enjoins Israel to rejoice in their Maker and King. Why? He takes pleasure in them and has saved them (v. 4). Their salvation gives Jehovah’s saints cause to celebrate, even when they are lying on their beds (v. 5). They are resting, but they’re not asleep: they’re singing at the top of their lungs. Similarly, the glorious salvation rest that we’ve been given doesn’t mean we’re inactive: it compels us to praise. And not only are the saints singing as they rest, but they also hold a sword in their hands! This deadly sword is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), “the word of God” (Heb. 4:12). It is to be used to execute vengeance and to bind kings.

Who has the honor of wielding this sword? “All his saints.” The gospel is brandished by the church, leaving Jehovah’s enemies without excuse, conquering his people from every tribe and tongue, taking them captive to Christ, and making them citizens of Israel. We also must turn that blade on our own hearts day-by-day. “With this two-edged sword believers fight against their own corruptions…sin…is crucified…[and] self…is…brought into subjection to the yoke of Christ” (Matthew Henry). Sing or pray Psalter #407.

 

Jun 30—A Hallelujah Chorus

Read Psalm 150

If you’ve ever attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, perhaps you were startled when, three-fourths of the way through the concert, the audience suddenly stood for the “Hallelujah” chorus. Legend has it that at the oratorio’s London premiere, King George II became so excited during the “Hallelujah” chorus that he leaped to his feet. Out of respect, the audience followed suit, and from that time on, it became a tradition to stand during that climatic piece.

The grand finale of Psalms climaxes in Psalm 150. Thirteen times in six verses the psalmist sounds this note: “Hallelujah!” He calls on “all his works in all places of his dominion” to praise Jehovah (Ps. 103:22). Nor is it enough that a solo instrument is employed in this endeavor: the psalmist conducts an entire orchestra in a symphony of praise to God, and he calls on all that breath to join the chorus. Indeed, it’s hard to read (or sing) this psalm without leaping to one’s feet. And yet, at its conclusion lingers the recognition that all do not praise Jehovah and yearning for the day when the Messiah will return and that prayer will become a reality (see Rev. 5:11–14). Sing or pray Psalter #409.

 

Jul 1—Bridle Your Tongue

Read Proverbs 25

Proverbs 25 instructs us regarding our speech. God’s word in this chapter commands us not to pass along others’ secrets (v. 9) and warns against boasting about ourselves, exaggerating our abilities (vv. 14 and 6). Verse 18 equates one that bears false witness to a maul, a sword, and a sharp arrow. Confiding in such a person is like eating with a bad tooth or walking on a crippled foot (v. 19). Verse 20 teaches that one who sings merrily to another whose heart is heavy (rather than sympathizing with them) is like a person who snatches another’s jacket off his back on a cold day. But there is also positive instruction regarding our speech. Verse 11 reads, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures [or baskets] of silver.” Verse 12 praises a wise reprover. Verses 13 and 25 liken one who brings good news to one who refreshes another with a glass of ice water on a hot day. Would you like to persuade another of something? That will require patience and “a soft tongue” (v. 15).

Sanctified speech requires much temperance, self-control. Do we pray earnestly for that fruit of the Spirit? Sing or pray Psalter #26.

 

Jul 2—Wise Words

Read Proverbs 26

Proverbs 26:4–5 seem to contradict: “Answer not a fool according to his folly…Answer a fool according to his folly…” The implication is this: when a fool boasts, rails, lies, slanders, or banters, the wise man will not answer in kind. But when given the opportunity, the wise man will use his wisdom to convict a fool. He is not wise in his own conceit, however (v. 12); the wisdom he applies is the wisdom of God’s word. That great God will justly reward all fools (v. 10).

We heated our former home with a wood-burning stove. It was then that our young children memorized Proverbs 26:20–21. Since then they’ve learned verses 18–19 too. Those verses teach that the person who deceives his neighbor and then says, “I was only joking!” is as destructive as a madman throwing flaming darts and deadly arrows. The words of a talebearer, declares verse 22, are like wounds in the stomach. Such a man might attempt to cover his hatred with gracious or flattering speech, but eventually, his wickedness will be publicly exposed (v. 26). Do our words minister grace or feed strife? Where no wood is, the fire will go out. Sing or pray Psalter #89.

 

Jul 3—Contentious Tongues and Faithful Wounds

Read Proverbs 27

Proverbs 27:1 admonishes: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow…” Must we make no plans or provisions for the future? No. We must do so mindful that only if the Lord wills, “we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15).

Verses 15-16 observe that attempting to restrain an argumentative woman is as futile as holding back the wind or clutching oil in one’s fingers. Such a woman is like a leaky roof on a rainy day. The roofs in Israel were flat: a little leak was a big problem. Similarly, the contentious woman is not only annoying; she’s destructive. Slowly and subtly she tears down the very home she’s called to maintain (Prov. 14:1). Sisters, we’re quick to employ the deadly weapon of the tongue. But we’ve been anointed with God’s Spirit: may soft, wise, healing words characterize our speech (Prov. 12:18, 15:1–2).

Verse 17 teaches that just as metal sharpens metal, so wicked men sharpen their companions to do evil (Prov. 5:4), while Christians sharpen fellow saints to godliness.  Sometimes that sharpening comes in the form of a painful but necessary rebuke.  In that case, “Open rebuke is better than secret love,” for “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (v. 6). Sing or pray Psalter #90.

 

Jul 4—The Froward and the Flatterer

Read Proverbs 28

Proverbs 28:2 notes the instability God visits on the governments of wicked nations. Verse 15 contrasts the oppressive ruler with one who hates covetousness. Do we pray for those who rule over us, the good and the froward? Not only covetous rulers will be judged for oppressing the poor, however. The poor even oppress one another (v. 3). Are we faithful to give to the poor, and do we seek provision for our earthly needs through the God-ordained means of hard work? Verses 2, 8, 19, 20, 22, and 27 all warn against making haste to be rich and turning our eyes from the poor.

Verse 13 teaches that we must not attempt to cover our sins, but confess and forsake them. Verse 23 condemns flattery, the use of excessive—and often exaggerated—compliments to bring oneself into the favor of others. A flatterer will be trapped by his sin (Prov. 29:5). Instead, Proverbs 28:23 commends rebuke. We hesitate to rebuke for the same reason that we flatter: we fear what others will think of us. Psalm 141:5 declares, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil…” Is that the attitude with which we give and receive rebuke? Sing or pray Psalter #83.

 

Jul 5—Which Way?

Read Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29:1 cautions against disregarding reproof. Following that solemn statement are several familiar texts regarding child-rearing (vv. 15 and 17.) Verses 2, 4, and 14 contrast righteous and wicked rulers. Aren’t you thankful that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will”? (Dan. 4:32).

Do we need more admonitions to watch our tongues? To our shame, we do daily. Verse 5 warns against flattery, and verse 20 condemns hasty speech. According to verse 22, many of our sins are rooted in anger. If anger is not the root of a sin, you can be sure that pride is: “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” (v. 23). This chapter’s frequent use of antithetical parallelism reminds us that throughout the entire book inspired Solomon presents us with two ways or paths: the way of the righteous and the way of the fool. They lead in opposite directions: they are antithetical to one another. Sometimes those paths are presented as two women: Dame Folly, the strange woman whose house is the way to hell, and Lady Wisdom, who bestows eternal riches upon those who love her. Which way do you walk? Which woman do you embrace? Sing or pray Psalter #325.

 

Jul 6—The Preacher and his Text

Read Ecclesiastes 1

Ecclesiastes is the wisdom of “the Preacher,” aged Solomon, whose great sins have brought him great bitterness. The word translated “Preacher” is a Hebrew feminine word that means “to gather.” Perhaps Solomon refers to himself this way because he would have all gather around to hear his final words. Perhaps he uses this feminine term to “upbraid himself with his effeminacy, which contributed more than anything to his apostasy; for it was to please his wives that he set up idols” (Matthew Henry). Or maybe, Henry also speculates, Solomon views himself from a spiritual perspective. He had gone astray like a lost sheep, but, now penitent, he has been gathered back to Jehovah’s fold.

Solomon is the Preacher; Ecclesiastes is his last sermon; this is his text: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (v. 2). The word translated “vanity,” which appears nearly 40 times in this short book, means “breath” or “vapor.” Not only is Solomon face-to-face with life’s brevity; he finds that defining life’s meaning is like grasping a handful of smoke. “Time and chance” happen to all, whether rich or poor, weak or strong, fool or wise (Eccl. 9:11). Do we live in the consciousness that the ever-rolling stream of time is bearing us away? Sing or pray Psalter #246.

 

Jul 7—Pleasure, Wisdom, or Work?

Read Ecclesiastes 2

In Ecclesiastes 2 the preacher recounts his attempts to find meaning in life. Once he thought pleasure would give life meaning (vv. 1–11). But, to put it in today’s terminology, he found that even if he partied all weekend, Monday always came. Then he sought meaning in wisdom (vv. 12–17). But, though he recognized the superiority of living wisely, he was forced to admit that the wise man had no real advantage over the fool: both are subject to calamities, death, and oblivion. Perhaps work would give him the meaning he so desperately sought? (vv. 18–23). No. Not only did his hard toil bring him sorrow, he knew that the things at which he labored long and hard would be left to others who did not value them as he did.

Do you recognize the vanity of which the preacher speaks in your life? Do you wrestle with the emptiness of your pleasures, the fruitlessness of your wisdom, the futility of your work? There is hope at this chapter’s conclusion: though we don’t control our lots, they do not come to us at random. God gives them to us. Do you humbly confess that your lot in life is the gift of a good God? Sing or pray Psalter #27.

 

Devotional

April 8—May 7

 

April 8—“I am Prayer”

Read Psalm 109

How do we reconcile Scripture’s command to love our enemies with Psalm 109’s seemingly vindictive tone? Notice, David does love these wicked, but they return evil for his good and hatred for his love (vv. 4–5). Likewise, our enemies must not be people whom we hate, “but him who entertains enmity towards us” (Calvin). Nor does David seek to revenge their unmerited and malicious hatred.  He brings his case to Jehovah in prayer and leaves the matter there (Rom. 12:19). Psalm 109:4b can be read, “But I am prayer.” Do we follow his example?

David first prays about his enemies in the plural. Beginning at verse 6, he prays in the singular, either focusing on them individually or singling out their leader. Some commentators suggest that the explicit petitions he prays correspond to the hate-filled words with which they surrounded him (see v. 3 and Deut. 19:16–21). Perhaps we’re uncomfortable reading these petitions because our prayers tend to be so very general. Note, David simply prays—and his prayer is the inspired prayer of Christ!—that God will chastise or judge these wicked men with the natural fruits of their sinful walk.  These are the wages—the reward—that Jehovah pays sinners (v. 20). Do we pray that he will justly recompense the unrepentant sinners whom we know?

Sing or pray Psalter #300.

 

April 9—“Priestly King, Enthroned Forever”

Read Psalm 110

Psalm 110 teaches that Jesus Christ is not only God’s anointed King: he is God’s anointed Priest-King. Other passages make clear that he is also ordained and anointed “to be our chief Prophet and Teacher” (HC, LD 12). Still more: he is God. As Jesus noted to the Pharisees, David refers to his promised Son as “my Lord.” He didn’t look only for a king that would sit on his earthly throne; he prophesied of the divine King who would rule from God’s right hand.

Verse 3 describes Christ’s people this way: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness…” Do we obey King Jesus willingly? Other translations render “the beauties of holiness” as “in holy garments” or “in holy array.”  The holiness of Christ’s subjects is not inherent in themselves: they’ve been clothed with it. Our garments distinguish us as those who are consecrated to his service. As his friend-servants, we’re called to confess his name, present ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to him, fight against sin and Satan in this life, and look forward to the day when we will reign with him eternally over all creatures.

Sing or pray Psalter #302.

 

April 10—Fruitful Age

Read 1 Chronicles 23

David is “old and full of days.” Still he numbers and organizes the Levites. This was no small feat, for the tribe of Levi had grown more than four-fold, from 8,580 to 38,000, a proportional increase greater than any other tribe (see Num. 4:48). Joab had not numbered the Levites previously (1 Chron. 21:6); David counted them now not in pride, but with purpose. We learned in Numbers that the Levites did not begin to serve in the tabernacle until age 25 and that they were not responsible for carrying the tabernacle and its furnishings until age 30. Now David employs them from age 20, for God had given them rest from the laborious task of transporting the tabernacle (1 Chron. 23:24–27).

David’s dearest desire had been to build God’s temple, and he had diligently amassed materials to that end. Jehovah denied him that privilege, but David did not, “like so many peevish persons when their wills are crossed, mope and fret, and then lose all interest in the Lord’s service; but readily acquiesced in God’s will and continued his preparation…Advancing age and increasing infirmities quickened him to increased diligence and effort…Those who are mature and experienced should consider the younger ones who are to follow, and furnish all the help they can to make the work of God as easy as possible for them” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #350.

 

April 11—For the Work of Ministry

Read 1 Chronicles 24

David organizes the descendants of Aaron in 1 Chronicles 24. These were the priests who would preside over the affairs of the sanctuary in turn. Their rotation was assigned by lot, that the whole disposing thereof might be of the Lord (Prov. 16:33). It’s noted that there were 16 chief men in Eleazar’s line, while Ithamar’s family had only eight. This makes sense, since the house of Eli, which God had judged for their iniquity, descended from Ithamar.

Still today, the rule and worship of the church requires order and structure. That order is determined by King Jesus through his word and Spirit. And still today our Lord assigns to each member of the body certain gifts and a specific place, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). Do each of us cheerfully serve in the place we’ve been given?

Sing or pray Psalter #368.

 

April 12—Sing unto Him

Read 1 Chronicles 25

1 Chronicles 25 records David’s organization of the Levite singers and instrumentalists. This new office was dear to the heart of the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1). These men were appointed to “prophesy.” Likewise, we’re appointed to praise and confess the name of our God. Let’s edify one another and glorify our God also in song! The Levities appointed to this position were privileged, yet note: their role is referred to as a service, and they, workmen. Matthew Henry comments that this “intimates that it is our duty to make a business of [praising God]…and that, in our present state of corruption and infirmity, it will not be done as it should be done without labour and struggle.”

Verses 3 and 6 emphasize that these things were done according to the order of the king. That’s the principle that regulates our worship too. Those same verses emphasize that the fathers presided in this service, their children learning under their hands. Are we faithful to train our children in this service?

Sing or pray Psalter #289:1–4.

 

April 13—Put on Humility

Read Psalm 131 and 138

(In a couple of weeks we will consider Psalm 119. I’d like to devote several days to that lengthy psalm, so, with that in mind, we will study several of this month’s shorter psalms in pairs.)

Psalm 131 is humble psalm that extols that very virtue: humility.  David sings that his heart, his eyes, and his mind are not lifted up in pride.  He compares his humble state to that of a toddler, who, now weaned, rests serenely in his mother’s arms.  Humility frees him from anxiety, restlessness, and despair: he is content to lean on Jehovah. Humility enables him to trust that “that all things work together for good to them that love God,” and to exhort his fellow saints, “Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and forever.”

In Psalm 138, David gives thankful praise to Jehovah. He had cried to Jehovah, and Jehovah had answered him that very day, strengthening him with strength in his soul. Though king, David recognizes that he is but one king of many on the earth, and that God is King over all. Though God is great, he regards the lowly, or humble. Those who are proud he knows only at a distance. Do you or I presently lack the experience of God’s nearness? Perhaps our pride is to blame.

Sing or pray Psalter #381.

 

April 14—Our Omniscient, Omnipresent Owner

Read Psalm 139

David celebrates Jehovah’s omniscience in Psalm 139:1–6. Our God searches, knows, understands, and surrounds his people. This knowledge doesn’t frighten David: it’s wonderful to him (v. 6), for Jehovah is his friend. Not only is he an omniscient God, he is also omnipresent. In verse 7 David asks, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” He answers his own question in verses 8–12, delighting in the reality that escape from Jehovah is an impossibility. This all-knowing, everywhere-present God also owns David, for he has created him and redeemed him. David traces his life from conception (v. 13) to resurrection (“when I awake,” v. 18). He also considers that Jehovah is Lord of his entire being, from his emotions (“reins,” v. 13) to his physical frame.

This meditation compels David to respond in hatred to those who speak lies about God. “The Bible is outraged by sins of speech;” are we characterized by “the proper radicalism of Psalm 139?” (Motyer). The psalm, which began with Jehovah’s searching, comes full circle when David prays, “Search me…and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv. 23–24).

Sing or pray Psalter #384.

 

April 15—Threefold Distress, Threefold Discipline

Read Psalm 143

A troubled David again appeals to Jehovah in Psalm 143.  Before he presents his case against his enemy, he admits his own guilt (v. 2). If David himself is guilty, on what grounds does he plead?  On the basis of Jehovah’s faithfulness and righteousness (v. 1). David’s case against his enemy is threefold. First, the enemy has persecuted his soul, intent on his life.  Second, the enemy has smitten him “down to the ground”: his threats and slander have crushed David’s spirit.  Third, he has made David to “dwell in darkness.”  David cannot find any comfort or light. All of this he presents to the Judge.

David regains a right perspective when he exercises three spiritual disciplines (v. 5). First, he remembers the days of old. How do his current troubles compare with trials he has faced in the past?  Second, he meditates on all Jehovah’s works. He cannot reflect on former days without acknowledging God’s gracious interpositions on his behalf. Third, he muses on those works. His meditation moves him to lift his hands and praise God in song (verse 6 ends with the word “Selah,” which denotes a musical interlude). Let’s follow his example of prayer, meditation, and praise when we lack a proper spiritual perspective.

Sing or pray Psalter #389:1–3.

 

April 16—Blessed God, Blessed People

Read Psalm 144

Psalm 144 begins with a list of 10 of Jehovah’s glories. Its opening verses are peppered with “my” and “I,” but David switches to the plural pronoun “our” in the latter verses, praying on behalf of all God’s people. David’s faith is personal, yet he recognizes that God saves him as a member of a body. On behalf of that body, David makes an urgent, repeated request: “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children…” (vv. 7–8,11). David is requesting that Jehovah will purge his people of the unbelievers that dwell among them.

What makes that petition so very urgent? David knows that the antithesis is essential to the prosperity of God’s people. He prays that Jehovah will rid Israel of the unbelievers who dwell among them so that their covenant children may thrive. He desires sons like “plants grown up in their youth,” and likens Israel’s daughters to corner pillars that support and beautify a structure. Do we desire that the children of the church prosper spiritually?  Then, for the sake of their welfare, we must be willing to pray, “Rid me…from…strange children,” even when those strange children are our own family members or friends.

Sing or pray Psalter #393.

 

April 17—An Unsearchable Greatness

Read Psalm 145

Like Psalms 25 and 34, Psalm 145 is originally an alphabetical acrostic. This style of poetry likely aided God’s people in memorization, but it also suggested a totality of the treatment of its subject, similar to our expression “from A to Z.” Interestingly, one letter of the Hebrew alphabet—the letter “nun”—is absent from Ps. 145. Perhaps that verse was lost in translation. More likely, David intentionally excluded it to suggest the infinite, incomprehensible glory of God. “His greatness is unsearchable” (v. 3b). Though we will never be able to wrap our minds around Jehovah’s glory, we may not shrink back from studying his self-revelation. The Christian faith requires “a certain knowledge”; repudiates willing ignorance; engages the renewed mind.

Psalm 145:9 reads, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Does that verse teach common grace? No. Jehovah is indeed “a gracious God” (Jonah 4:2). But he is also “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps. 145:17), near only “to all that call upon him in truth” (v. 18). He preserves only “all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy” (v. 20).

Sing or pray Psalter #394.

 

April 18—Doorkeepers, Treasurers, Judges

Read 1 Chronicles 26

In 1 Chronicles 26 David appoints 4,000 porters, 24,000 treasurers, and 6,000 officers and judges from among the Levites. The porters’ duty was to guard the temple entrances, encouraging those who were timorous and excluding strangers, unclean, thieves, and enemies of God. Those who kept the temple treasures saw to the stores of flour, wine, oil, salt, and fuel, attended the priests with the sacrifices, readied the meat and drink offerings, cleaned the vessels, utensils, and sacred garments, and ensured that everything was in its place, “that the service might be performed both with expedition and with exactness” (Matthew Henry). The officers and judges were stationed throughout the kingdom and assisted the princes of every tribe with the administration of justice.

Compared to the priests, these men held humble positions, but God called and equipped them. He describes them as “mighty men of valour” (v. 6, 30–32), “strong men” (v. 7), “able men” (v. 8), and “wise” (v. 14). Do you and I accept our God-assigned places with the attitude that, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness”? (Ps. 84:10).

Sing or pray Psalter #228.

 

April 19—Counsellors and Companions

Read 1 Chronicles 27

We’ve been considering David’s divisions of the Levities. Now, in 1 Chronicles 27:1–15, we turn to the military divisions that David assigned. Twelve captains were each assigned a second-in-command and 24,000 men. Each group of 24,000 served the kingdom one month out of the year; the remainder of the year they attended to their own labors and affairs. Verses 16–22 name the civil rulers of each tribe (Gad and Asher are not listed. They could have been joined with another tribe, or their records may have been lost). Verses 23–24 briefly note David’s command to number the people, a command which displeased the Lord and brought judgment upon the people. The remaining verses list the names of the stewards of David’s property and the officers of his court.

Among the men who attended to David was his uncle, “a counselor, a wise man, and a scribe” (v. 32). This man knew the Scriptures. Interestingly, the cunning Ahithophel is listed as David’s counselor, but Hushai is named as his companion. Are Jehovah’s testimonies our delight and our counselors? Are our companions those that fear him? (Ps. 119:63).

Sing or pray Psalter #323.

 

April 20—The King Anointed

Read 1 Kings 1

David is nearing the end of his earthly sojourn. His servants pursue an ill-advised plan for his comfort: Abishag. “If the danger of [youth] is to disdain the advice of seniors and be too self-willed, the infirmities of [old age] place them more in the power of their juniors, and they are apt to yield to arrangements which their consciences condemn” (Pink). Jehovah’s displeasure becomes readily clear. “It is true that [Adonijah’s rebellion] was the fruit of his earlier laxity in ruling his children…yet the time when this impious insubordination occurred leaves us in no doubt that it is to be regarded as a divine chastening…” (Ibid).

Adonijah, David’s oldest living son, who had never been denied anything by his father, attempts to usurp the throne. Fellow parents, those who refuse to discipline their children “are only preparing a rod for their own backs” (Ibid). Adonijah is joined by opportunistic Joab and Abiathar. Bathsheba and Nathan establish the matter before David, who acts unhesitatingly. Jehovah had been faithful to him; he would also be faithful to his vow that Solomon would reign. Even before Adonijah’s celebration ends, Jerusalem rejoices as Solomon, chosen to rule before he was born (1 Chron. 22:9), comes riding upon a mule and is anointed king.

Sing or pray Psalter #4.

 

April 21—The Kingdom Established

Read 1 Kings 2

David charges Solomon to keep Jehovah’s law in 1 Kings 2. Jehovah swore in truth: David’s Son would sit upon the throne. But the temporal kingdom was contingent on the conduct of David’s descendants. We know the sad sequel: soon the ten tribes would be taken away because of Solomon’s idolatry. “Was then the divine purpose thwarted? No indeed…the counsels of God are made good in the Second Man…in Him the kingdom of God is spiritually realized” (Pink).

In accordance with David’s commands, Solomon administers justice to Joab for the willful murders of Abner and Amasa (see Lev. 24:17). Solomon removes Abiathar from the office of priest for joining with Adonijah, and, when Shimei fails the test of his integrity, has him executed as well. But first, Adonijah, still pining after the throne (v. 15), is put to death. Though David had not “known” Abishag, she had the status of a concubine. Like his brother Absalom, Adonijah knew that taking the concubines of the king implied a right to the throne (see 2 Sam. 16:20–23). At the very least, he intended to disturb his younger brother’s infant rule, and he is executed for his duplicity.

Sing or pray Psalter #367.

 

April 22—Constancy and Courage

Read 1 Chronicles 28

In 1 Chronicles 28 David formally charges the representatives of Israel and his son Solomon publicly to know God and to keep his commandments. How those men must have paid attention when their beloved—yet old and sickly—king rose to his feet and addressed them as, “My brethren.” David encouraged Solomon in his high, holy calling to build Jehovah’s house. First, he gave him a pattern of the temple. Second, he gifted him with gold and silver for the precious furnishings of the temple. Third, and perhaps most importantly, he assured him of Jehovah’s aid and reminded him that the priests, Levites, princes, and “all the people” would be at wholly at his command. Solomon typified our Lord Jesus Christ, the chosen Son, the builder of the house of God and the one whose kingdom is established forever.

Along with Solomon, we need to be exhorted to the attributes of constancy and courage. Are we faithful, willing servants of King Jesus? And do we find in him the strength we need to face the trials and temptations that confront us each day?

Sing or pray Psalter #45.

 

April 23—All Things are Thine

Read 1 Chronicles 29

David has charged Solomon and the princes of Israel. Now he addresses the congregation before he dies. He reminds them that Solomon is young—he was not yet twenty—to assume the heavy responsibilities of ruling the kingdom and building the temple. David also reminds the people how he made the house of Jehovah his care and encourages them to do the same. The people respond by giving willingly, and David gratefully, humbly blesses Jehovah for their eager, abundant offering. Before the people he confesses, “All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (v. 14). Is that the attitude with which we offer ourselves and our possessions to our God?

The people then join David in corporate worship, and on that high note, the reign of David ends. “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers…” (Acts 13:36) “May we too be enabled to serve our generation as faithfully as David did his” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #383.

 

April 24—Except the Lord

Read Psalm 127

The heading of Psalm 127 attributes its authorship to Solomon. Perhaps he penned this song early in his reign, before his own deplorable family life led to his idolatry. It’s likely he has two houses in mind in verse 1. First, the building of God’s temple weighs heavily on his mind, but the encouragement of his father stills rings in his ears, too: “Fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Ch. 28:20). The second house is the house of David, now established in him (see 2 Sam. 7:11–16). Though tempted to anxiety, Solomon comforted himself with the promise of Jehovah’s provision (v. 2). Solomon’s personal name was Jedidiah, “Jehovah’s Beloved” (2 Sam. 12:24–25).

Although fruitful labor, watching, and rest require human activity, their outcome is God’s gift. It is likewise with children. “Babies cannot be conceived and born without the human activity of procreation, but the Bible insists, it is not sexual intercourse as such that leads to conception. Only God can ‘open the womb’” (Motyer). Children are an inheritance—a free gift, not a payment.

Sing or pray Psalter #359.

 

April 25—Works Remembered

Read Psalm 111 and 112

Psalm 111 is a communal celebration of Jehovah’s wonderful works.  His works are great, honorable, glorious, enduring, right, and just. They are the meditations of the godly and the source of their delight. The font of these works is a God who is himself grace and compassion.  He gives his people all that they need.  He makes them to know his mighty deeds, for by themselves they would be blind to his works. Among the greatest of his works is that which the psalmist mentions twice: he is faithful to his covenant.

Psalm 111 teaches that not only is Jehovah’s covenant everlasting: his praise and his commandments also endure forever. Psalm 112:1 declares that the person who delights in those commandments is blessed. His children will be mighty upon the earth, and wealth and riches will fill his house (vv. 2–3). That’s not always the believer’s experience in this life, however, for the psalm speaks of the spiritual riches that belong to the godly and their children. But already in this life the righteous bear the image of their heavenly Father. Psalm 111 notes that Jehovah is gracious and full of compassion: so are the upright (Ps. 112:4–5).

Sing or pray Psalter #305.

 

April 26—Who is Like our God?

Read Psalm 113 and 114

Psalm 113–118 comprise the Hallel psalms, songs of praise that were sung at Passover. Psalm 113 can be divided into three sections. In verses 1–3 Jehovah’s people bless his name, “the compendium of who and what he is” (Motyer). In verses 4–6 they consider Jehovah’s exaltation and self-humbling. He is so great that he not only humbles himself to behold the things of earth: he condescends even to behold the things of heaven! Yet this exalted God takes thought for the poor and vulnerable; he is sovereign in both the affairs of the state and the home (vv. 7–9).

Psalm 114 is a poetic celebration of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, a poetic celebration of our redemption! It affirms the principles set forth in Psalm 113. The God who is sovereign over all things, including the creation, identified himself with the poor and transformed his people’s identity from slaves to victors. In his presence the Red Sea fled, the Jordan River turned back, the mountains and hills skipped, and the earth trembled. This God cared for his people as they journeyed through the wilderness. He provides for us on our pilgrimage to heaven, too.

Sing or pray Psalter #306.

 

April 27—Renewed in Knowledge

Read Psalm 115 and 116

Psalm 115 begins and ends with Jehovah’s earth-dwelling people blessing their God, who dwells in the heavens (vv. 1–3 and 16–18). Verses 4–15 contrast Jehovah, who alone deserves all glory, with the images of the heathen. The psalmist observes seven things about those idols: his is a “comprehensive charge list” (Motyer). He first notes that they are made by the very men who worship them! Yet, though dead, each idol “had the dreadful capacity to transform its worshippers into its own image” (Ibid). Then the psalmist lists reasons why Israel should trust in Jehovah. He ends with this motivation: Jehovah made heaven and earth. Have we been renewed in knowledge after his image? (Col. 3:10).

In Psalm 116 the psalmist recounts a time when Jehovah delivered his soul from death.  In response, the psalmist asks, “What shall I render [that is, give] unto the Lord…” He strikingly answers, “I will take…” (vv. 12–13). The psalmist knew that all that we have, we have been given. As the apostle Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Do you call upon Jehovah’s name in thankful praise for the overflowing cup of salvation he has given you?

Sing or pray Psalter #426.

 

April 28—All Nations Blessed in the Cornerstone

Read Psalm 117 and 118

Since they belong to the Hallel psalms, some think that Psalm 115–118 comprised the “hymn” that our Lord and his disciples sang in the upper room (Matt. 26:30). At first glance, Psalm 117 may seem remarkable only in its brevity. But pause a moment and consider that the saints of the Old Testament sang this song of praise: they looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18).

Psalm 118 is a psalm of grateful, jubilant rejoicing. Why does the psalmist rejoice? He rejoices because the Lord is on his side, and in his joy he calls on Israel, the priests, and all who fear Jehovah to enter the gates of the tabernacle and join him in worship. The occasion of the psalmist’s praise is the foundation of all our prayers, for he speaks prophetically in verse 22 of our savior, Jesus Christ, the elect, precious cornerstone of God who was rejected by the builders. The man that believes on him will never be confounded.

Sing or pray Psalter #427.

 

April 29—The Righteous Shall Inherit the Land

Read Psalm 37

Beautiful Psalm 37 is an acrostic psalm in the Hebrew. It doesn’t have the tell-tale 22 verses, but that’s because most of the Hebrew letters are followed by a section that is two verses long in our English translations. The psalm gives very straightforward instruction to the Christian. First, we’re commanded not to envy evildoers. From an outward point of view, they lead lives of ease and prosperity. They are also hostile to God’s people. But the one who views them with eyes of faith understands that their doom is imminent. Other passages of Scripture describe the righteous like fruitful trees: the wicked are like the short-lived grass.

Second, we’re instructed to delight ourselves in Jehovah and commit our way unto him, trusting that he will act at the right time (v. 5). That doesn’t mean that the Christian life is one of inactivity, however! We must “depart from evil, and do good” (v. 27). Such responses require diligence in the disciplines of worship, prayer, Bible study, etc. As Matthew Henry wrote, “The instructions here given are very plain; much need not be said for the exposition of them, but there is a great deal to be done for the reducing of them to practice…”

Sing or pray Psalter #101.

 

April 30—Our God for Life

Read Psalm 71

Jehovah is no fair-weather friend: he is a faithful, life-long God. In Psalm 71 the psalmist rejoices when he reflects that the one who took him from the womb taught him throughout his youth. Children and young people, do you see the hand of God in your lives? Throughout his middle years, Jehovah proved himself faithful again and again–more times than the psalmist can count. Is that your experience, adults? Now as the psalmist reaches his later years, he comforts himself with the knowledge that Jehovah will also sustain him in the trials of old age. For his enemies are still mighty and still just as determined to do him harm as they were in the past. He rejoices to know that not only will Jehovah be his refuge and strength; after he faces the last great enemy, death, Jehovah will also raise him again (v. 20). Is that your hope, aged saint? Do you testify of Jehovah’s strength to the generation that follows you?

Jehovah’s faithfulness compelled the psalmist to sing and shout his praise throughout the day. Is that our response as well?

Sing or pray Psalter #190.

 

May 1—An Appeal to the Judge

Read Psalm 94

The psalmist of Psalm 94 is troubled. The proud wicked, who “speak hard things” and “boast themselves” (note again the Bible’s horror at sins of the tongue!) seem to triumph over God’s people. These wicked proud are not heathen: they are Israelites who persecute the true Israel of God (v. 10). The psalmist is awed by these unbelievers’ lack of spiritual discernment. He considers the revelations of God in creation—he formed and knows the ear, the eye, and the mind—in redemption—he will not forsake his inheritance—in faithful care—he is his people’s help and defense—and in judgement—in due time, he will reward the wicked for their iniquity. By God’s grace, he understands that these wicked are tools in Jehovah’s hand, tools that he uses to chasten his people. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law” (v. 12). And just as certainly as Jehovah will reward the wicked with trouble, so certainly will he reward his people with rest (v. 13).

“When we look around at the world we are living in, what should we see? Psalm 94 replies, we should see a call to prayer… ‘God is still on the throne’” (Motyer).

Sing or pray Psalter #253.

 

May 2—Cling to Jehovah’s Testimonies

Read Psalm 119:1–32

Psalm 119 is the greatest of the alphabetic acrostic psalms. All the verses in each eight-verse section begin with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The psalm is united by the theme of God’s special revelation. The psalmist uses a variety of words, each of which has a different emphasis, to describe this revelation. The word translated “law” includes all of God’s teaching. The root of “testimonies” means “to witness.” What a wonder that God witnesses of himself to us! When the psalmist writes of Jehovah’s “ways,” his focus is the godly lifestyle that conforms to God’s revelation.

Each section also has a sub-theme. In Aleph, the psalmist uses the word “keep” four times: he is resolved to keep Jehovah’s statues. In Beth, we see that he keeps this determination with integrity. He desires to be taught of Jehovah, so he meditates on Jehovah’s revelation and, in response, he declares Jehovah’s judgements. In Gimel, he acknowledges his pilgrim status and his dependence on Jehovah, even in keeping his word. The psalmist is depressed in Daleth: he describes himself as clinging to the dust. But from the dust he prays, “quicken me,” “teach me,” “make me to understand,” “strengthen me,” “remove from me,” and “grant me.” God answers his prayer, and he resolves to cling to Jehovah’s testimonies instead (v. 31).

Sing or pray Psalter #322.

 

May 3—The Quickening Word

Read Psalm 119:32–64

When the psalmist uses the word “statutes” to refer to Jehovah’s revelation, he underscores its permanency: it is as if his word is engraved in stone. “Commandments” stresses that Jehovah’s revelation must be obeyed.

Like Daleth, section He contains many prayers to God to act: ten prayers, in fact. Twice the psalmist prays that Jehovah would “quicken” him, that is, give him life. Of himself he would focus on vain idols; it is Jehovah who must turn his heart to his word. And yet, the psalmist isn’t idle. His ten prayers are punctuated with six resolutions. According to one commentary, every verse in Vau begins with the word “And” in the Hebrew, indicating the close relationship between all its clauses. Verses 42–48 all flow out of the wonderful reality expressed in verse 41: Jehovah is the psalmist’s salvation. The four middle verses of Zain note derision of the wicked and the psalmist’s horror at their ungodliness. These verses are balanced by verses 49 and 55, which speak of remembrance (Jehovah’s and the psalmist’s) and verses 50 and 56, which emphatically begin with “This.” Jehovah’s word brings life to the psalmist, fueling his word-devoted life. Cheth begins with the confession that Jehovah is the psalmist’s portion and ends with the confession that the earth of is full of his mercy. How does the psalmist live in response to these two realities? He answers that in verses 58–63.

Sing or pray Psalter #327.

 

May 4—Wise Through His Commandments

Read Psalm 119:65–104

The word “precepts” highlights the application of the principles of Jehovah’s revelation to all the details of life. When Jehovah’s revelation is referred to as his “judgments,” the emphasis is on its authority and righteousness. His are the standards according to which all men are judged.

In Teth the psalmist confesses that God is good all the time, even when he sends affliction, for it is through affliction that the divine Teacher teaches his people his word. In Jod the psalmist declares, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” God formed his physical being and established him in a specific time and place, amid “the proud” and before fellow God-fearers; the psalmist also desires the inward work of Jehovah in his mind and heart. The eight verses in Caph are a model for our prayers. In the odd-numbered verses, the waiting psalmist tells God how things are. In the even-numbered verses, he pleads for God to act. In Lamed the psalmist rejoices that Jehovah’s word is eternal. Where is true liberty to be found? In the way of keeping his commandments (v. 96). How he loves those commandments: through them he has wisdom and discernment (Mem).

Sing or pray Psalter #329.

 

May 5—A Shining Light

Read Psalm 119:105–136

In Nun, the psalmist twice refers to an oath he has freely sworn: he will keep Jehovah’s judgments. Though afflicted and persecuted, he confesses that there’s a lit pathway through the valley of this life: the pathway is God’s way, illuminated by his word (vv. 1–2). The psalmist doesn’t only follow this way outwardly, with his feet, but inwardly, with his heart (vv. 111–112). The psalmist notes his distinctiveness from evildoers in Samech. His perceived eccentricities arise from his adherence to Jehovah’s statutes. His obedience is driven by fear—not terror, but reverence for his holy God and his holy law. “The Word of God and the God of the Word are inseparables” (Motyer).

In Ain, the psalmist begins by testifying that he has acted according to the principles of that word. But his persecutors have not, and he calls on Jehovah to intervene. In verse 124, he pleads with Jehovah to deal with him in mercy. What form does that mercy take? The form of instruction in Jehovah’s word. In Pe the psalmist returns to the metaphor of light. As he walks in Jehovah’s ways, he experiences blessing: the very face of God shines on him.

Sing or pray Psalter #334.

 

May 6—Jehovah is Near

Read Psalm 119:137–176

In Tzaddi, the psalmist contrasts Jehovah—“Righteous art thou, O Lord”—and himself—“I am small and despised” (vv. 137 and 141). Mindful of his own frailty, the psalmist delights in Jehovah’s testimonies, which are as righteous and faithful as their divine source. As in verse 136, in verse 139 he grieves at those who despise that life-giving word. In Koph, the psalmist, his enemies pressing close, longs for Jehovah’s nearness, and his desire is answered with an assurance of Jehovah’s presence. In Resh, the psalmist again juxtaposes his devotion to God’s law with the willing unbelief of the wicked. Why is he so devoted to Jehovah’s precepts? He loves them. That love is the fruit of the life that only God himself can give. Knowing this, the psalmist thrice prays, “Quicken me,” that is, “Give me life” (vv. 154, 156, and 159).

Schin is replete with the psalmist’s awe of Jehovah’s word. His word is like great spoil and gives great peace. In response, the psalmist loves them exceedingly. Tau is a fourfold prayer. A. Motyer captions each two-verse section as follows: “Hear my prayer” (vv. 169–170), “Let me praise” (vv. 171–172), “Grant me help” (vv.173–174), and “Bring me home” (vv. 175–176.)

Sing or pray Psalter #342.

 

May 7—A Wise and Understanding Heart

Read 1 Kings 3

Matthew Henry comments on Solomon’s union with Pharoah’s daughter: “We will suppose she was proselyted, otherwise the marriage would not have been lawful; yet, if so, surely it was not advisable…Yet some think…that she was a sincere convert (for the gods of the Egyptians are not reckoned among the strange gods which his strange wives drew him in to the worship of, (ch.11:5–6)) and that [the Song of Solomon] and the 45th Psalm were penned on this occasion, by which these nuptials were made typical of the mystical espousals of the church to Christ, especially the Gentile church.”

1 Kings 3 also records Solomon’s generous sacrifice at Gibeon and his ensuing dream. In that dream, Jehovah grants Solomon’s request for wisdom with a “a wise and understanding heart” as well as riches, honor, and, if he walks in God’s ways, long life. Solomon’s request, giving evidence of Jehovah’s own work in his heart, pleased God. He rejoices at his work in us, too. If, like Solomon, we desire discernment more than anything else, let’s pray for it, “nothing wavering” (James 1:5–6). Let’s also attend regularly to God’s Word and faithful preaching of it, for there is the source of all wisdom.

Sing or pray Psalter #325.

February 8—March 7 (28 days)

 

February 8—From Communion to Conquer

Read 2 Samuel 8

We read in 2 Samuel 7 that the Lord gave David “rest round about from all his enemies.” During that time of rest, the prophet Nathan brought David Jehovah’s word, and David spent time in prayer. Now chapter 8 begins, “And after this…David smote the Philistines, and subdued them.” God’s word and prayer strengthened David to fight and overcome his enemies.

In his masterful book The Life of David, A.W. Pink asks, “Why are such matters as these recorded in God’s Word, to be read by his people in all generations?” These are more than matters of historical interest: there is something of profit for our souls in every portion of our Father’s word. Be encouraged by this history, dear Christian, that in communion with God you will find the strength to overcome your enemies—the lusts of your flesh, your sinful habits, and your evil ways. David’s battles increased Israel’s territory. Likewise, by giving diligence to making your calling and election sure “an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11).

Sing or pray Psalter #36.

 

February 9—Dedicated unto the Lord

Read 1 Chronicles 18

David’s conquests of his enemies picture the mortification of sin to which God calls all his people. Colossians 3:5 exhorts, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” In commanding that we give diligence to make our calling and election sure, does God’s word suggest that our works merit our salvation?  By no means. David won such great victories because “the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went” (2 Sam. 8:6 and 14). The Spirit of Jehovah strengthened David to fight. But the Lord blessed him—and blesses us—in the way of diligence, not sloth.

In both 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18 we read that David dedicated the riches he seized from all the nations he conquered to Jehovah’s service. These he prepared for the temple that his son Solomon would later build (1 Chron. 22:14). Likewise, we’re exhorted that “as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness…even so now yield your members servants to righteousness…” (Rom. 6:19).

Sing or pray Psalter #383.

 

February 10—Prayer’s Banner

Read Psalm 60

In both 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18 we read that David deviously attacked Hadarezer, king of the Aramean kingdom of Zobah, when Hadarezer’s army was employed on their opposite border. Meanwhile, Edom opportunistically attacked Israel’s southern border, forcing David to dispatch Joab to that front. David, deeply shaken, owes the dire situation to his own impatience and heedlessness. Psalm 60 records David’s lament. He and his people sense God’s displeasure in their enemy’s victory. Still, they turn to him in their plight, raising the banner of prayer, for they have this assurance: they are his beloved. Isn’t it a wonder that we can go to our heavenly Father in confident prayer, too, even when our troubles are of our own making?

Jehovah responds in vv. 6–8. Not only, he says, do I rule over all Israel: your enemies, too, are my servants. And his people reply in confidence, assured that he will give them the victory and confessing that “vain is the help of man” (v. 11). That mighty God is also on our side in our battles against Satan, self, and the sinful world, and he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57).

Sing or pray Psalter #158.

 

February 11—Undeserved Favor

Read 2 Samuel 9

God’s grace can be simply defined as his undeserved favor. David’s kindness to Mephibosheth typifies God’s grace in such a remarkable way, only the sovereign God himself could have orchestrated it. First, it is not Mephibosheth who comes to David, but David who finds and fetches Mephibosheth. Indeed, Mephibosheth was unable to come of himself: he been crippled…in a fall. Nor did he desire to seek David. The grandson of Saul, David’s bitterest enemy, he had completely lost his inheritance and was hiding from David at Lodebar, which means “the place of no pasture.” What motivates David to show kindness to this lame man, whose very name meant “a shameful thing”? Years prior, Jonathan had acted as mediator between David and Saul (1 Sam. 20). David and Jonathan made a covenant in which David vowed to show kindness to Jonathan’s house forever. Consequently, the grace that David shows to Mephibosheth is based on a covenant made with a mediator before Mephibosheth had even been born. David grants Mephibosheth life and peace, restores to him his forfeited inheritance, and takes him into his fellowship as a son.

Mephibosheth responded to the grace shown him with humility, gratitude, and love. Is it so with us?

Sing or pray Psalter #204.

 

February 12—Jehovah’s Court

Read Psalm 50

In Psalm 50, the mighty God, the judge, calls the whole earth to witness at a trial. He himself descends from Zion, accompanied by devouring fire and a fierce storm. The defendants see him coming and tremble. Who are the defendants? Not the wicked, but Jehovah’s own people, those with whom he has made his covenant. What charges does he bring against them?  First, some of them are content with religious formalism (vv. 7–15). They offer sacrifices continually, but they do not worship him from the heart. Then there are those who despise his law (vv. 16–21). Specifically, they repeatedly trespass against the seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments, excusing their shameful treatment of their neighbors with the presumption that Jehovah is like them. But He isn’t: he is holy and just. Thankfully, he is also merciful. The verdict in his peoples’ case is “guilty,” but another will bear their just sentence: Jehovah promises to show his salvation to those who offer thankful, heartfelt praise and walk in his ways.

We also stand on trial before the judge of heaven and earth. Do we worship him from the heart? Is our love for him evident in the love we show our neighbors?

Sing or pray Psalter #137.

 

February 13—Freely Justified Fools

Read Psalm 53

Psalms 14 and 53 are nearly identical. Both psalms begin with a description of the practical atheist, the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” In Psalm 14 these unbelievers are Israelites who deny God and prey on their poor brethren. But the psalmist adapted Psalm 53 to a different situation, providing an extended definition of “the workers of iniquity”: they are not the ungodly within the nation of Israel, but heathen encamped about God’s people, ready to attack. God put those foreigners to shame: they feared and scattered, though no man pursued them (Prov. 28:1, 2 Kings 7:6–7).

In Romans 3:10–11, the psalmist’s observations about the fool are applied to all men: “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God…” That’s God’s sober evaluation of your heart and mine, and to our shame, that’s often our experience, too, isn’t it? Yet all in Christ Jesus need not fear. Though we could never be justified by the deeds of the law, we have been “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Sing or pray Psalter #146.

 

February 14—Wondrous Deliverance

Read Psalm 75

Psalm 75 was written after Jehovah delivered his people from some great threat. God’s people speak first, twice thanking him and exulting, “that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.” God responds with the declaration that at his appointed time he judges uprightly. God’s people must have thought that he had forsaken them for a time. He admonishes them now to be patient, reminding them that the earth is secure in his hands, even though circumstances may seem to testify otherwise. Even the most arrogant human rulers are subservient to him. In Psalm 75:6-10 the psalmist reaffirms the same truth found in Romans 12:1b, that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” Not only does God appoint rulers: he holds them accountable for their actions. Wicked rulers will drink the cup of his wrath.

The judgment of our God is a reality that, though sobering, we celebrate with thanksgiving, for we know that in the way of judging the wicked, our God saves us. The dregs of the cup that we deserve to drink have been drained by our Savior. Do we thank him again and again for his wondrous deliverance?

Sing or pray Psalter #206.

 

February 15—The King’s Servants Avenged

Read 2 Samuel 10

In 2 Samuel 9 we read of the magnanimity David showed to Mephibosheth. In 2 Samuel 10 David again determines to show kindness, this time to the bereaved king of Ammon. He sends his servants to Hanun, who rejects the comfort they bring and puts them to an open shame. David correctly interprets Hanun’s actions as a declaration of war, and the remainder of the chapter records his avenging of his servants. David’s kindness to Mephibosheth pictures the grace God shows to his elect in Christ.  What does this incident typify?

Our Lord Jesus Christ also sends his servants to preach the gospel indiscriminately, and to all nations. Though we might not be ordained ministers, you and I are also called to be his witnesses, letting our light shine before all, for all live under the shadow of Adam’s sentence: death. But Christ’s servants who share “the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man” (Titus 3:4) are often reviled, persecuted, and spoken evil of falsely (Matt. 5:11). Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: our king will also avenge his servants.

Sing or pray Psalter #199.

 

February 16—Friendship with the World

Read 1 Chronicles 19

1 Chronicles 19 records the same incident as 2 Samuel 10. Like 2 Samuel 10, the chapter begins, “It came to pass after this,” yet the contexts of the two accounts are different. 2 Samuel 9 records David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, while 1 Chronicles 18 relates David’s victories over his enemies. A.W. Pink maintains that the difference in context warrants approaching the incident from two “widely separated angles.” He writes, “Oftentimes the same incident which manifests the goodness and grace of God, also exhibits the depravity and sin of man.” David sought to honor the memory of wicked Nahash. Whatever personal favor Nahash had shown David, he was a proven enemy of God’s people, the cruel king who had threatened to thrust out the right eyes of the men of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Sam. 1–2). David’s was “an attempt to promote amity between the ungodly and the godly. The Lord blew upon this move, and caused it to come to nought” (Pink).

Likewise, in his love for us, the Lord often causes once-friendly neighbors and unbelieving relatives to reject our attempts to befriend them. Can you recall a time in your life when you disregarded that friendship with the world is enmity against God and God himself intervened, to your spiritual profit?

Sing or pray Psalter #27.

 

February 17—A Prayer for the King

Read Psalm 20

Psalm 20 is a psalm of David, but the first verses record a prayer that his subjects offer on his behalf. These are their petitions for their king: they desire that the Lord will hear his prayer, preserve his life, strengthen him for his many tasks, accept his sacrifices, and crown his efforts with success. They know that their king will face trouble, but because their mutual salvation is the joyful basis of their prayers, they pray in confidence. David is encouraged by their prayers for him: “Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed,” he exclaims in verse six.

Do we remember to pray for those who rule over us? We can pray the same things that the Israelites prayed for David for our parents, teachers, pastors, and office-bearers. God also commands us to pray for those who rule over us in the secular sphere (1 Tim. 2:2). Let’s pray for their salvation, and let’s pray that God will use their rule to ensure our ability to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

Sing or pray Psalter #44.

 

February 18—The Blessed Man

Read Psalm 65

Psalm 65 is a song of harvest thanksgiving. In vv. 9–13, David describes the bounty with which God crowns the year. He delightfully and memorably writes of paths that drip with fatness, hills that rejoice, singing pastures clothed with woolly sheep, and shouting valleys covered with corn. But David doesn’t prize these gifts of abundance more than their giver! In vv. 5–8 he focuses on the giver himself. He is a God of power, the God who answers prayer. He is not only the God of creation, but the God of salvation.  But many fear his mighty signs (v. 8a). That’s why the psalm begins with the greatest blessing of all: being one chosen to dwell in God’s courts.

Do we count fellowship with God as our greatest blessing? Are we confident that though our sins rise up against us, he will take them all away? He is the God who hears and answers prayer. Let us find abundant satisfaction in the fatness of his house (Ps. 36:8).

Sing or pray Psalter #170.

 

February 19—Come and Hear

Read Psalm 66

Psalm 66 begins with a call to all the earth to praise God for his terrible works. The psalmist recounts some of those works in vv. 5–12. He mentions Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River as well as God’s preservation of his people through great affliction. Consideration of these corporate blessings compel the psalmist to consider God’s goodness to him personally. He cries, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (v. 16). Jehovah’s salvation has borne the fruit of integrity, not hypocrisy, in the psalmist. He prays to his Savior in the confidence that his prayer will be heard. And it was: Jehovah again hears the psalmist’s sincere prayer and bestows upon him the mercy that he desires.

If God’s salvation and preservation of the Old Testament saints compelled all nations to fear him, how much more should his redemption of his people in Jesus Christ move all men to fear him! Do the terrible works he’s done on his peoples’ behalf and the goodness he’s shown to you personally compel you to witness to others?

Sing or pray Psalter # 174.

 

February 20—With Blessing Comes Responsibility

Read Psalm 67

Psalms 66 and 67 share a common theme. When the writer of Psalm 66 considered the blessings that Jehovah showered upon his people, he was compelled to declare God’s goodness to others. In v. 1 of Psalm 67, God’s people pray for his blessing. Psalm 67:2 acknowledges the purpose of that blessing, “That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.” In Genesis 12:1–3 and 22:17–18, God promised to bless Abraham, but his blessing wouldn’t stop there. He added, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”  That is, in Christ people from all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gal. 3:16).  That’s the truth of which Psalm 67 speaks.

That truth implies a responsibility for we who are God’s people, saved by his grace, and daily loaded with his benefits. The riches of salvation that we know are meant to be shared. That responsibility belongs to Christ’s church as well as to the individual believer. Do our joyful, thankful lives testify of the righteousness and goodness of God? Do we readily share the reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear?

Sing or pray Psalter #176.

 

February 21—Scripture Fulfilled

Read Psalm 69

Perhaps David wrote Psalm 69 as he procured resources for the future temple. It’s likely that others attacked him personally as he amassed great quantities of riches for that purpose. It’s also likely that the relentless intensity with which he pursued his goal (see Ps. 132) incited bitter hatred in the Israelites who did not love Jehovah.

Ultimately, Psalm 69, the psalm most quoted in the New Testament, is the word of Christ. When he cleansed the temple, “his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up’” (John 2:17). On the night before he was crucified, Jesus reassured his disciples, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled… They hated me without a cause” (John 15:25). Our Lord was given vinegar to drink (John 19:28). Peter quoted Psalm 69:25 as he preached about Judas: “Let his habitation be desolate” (Acts 1:20). Paul referenced Psalm 69:22–23 in Romans 11:9–10 as he expounded the truth that “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Regarding our liberty in Christ, Rom. 15:1–3 declares, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak…For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (see Ps. 69:9 and 20).

Sing or pray Psalter #169.

 

February 22—Hurry, God!

Read Psalm 70

Does it seem to you as if you repeatedly face the same troubles and trials, so that you are often praying for the same things? That was David’s experience, too. Psalm 70 repeats Psalm 40:13–17, but Psalm 70s brevity highlights its sense of urgency. The psalm begins, “Make haste, O God,” and ends, “O Lord, make no tarrying.” For what does David pray in this dire circumstance? First, he prays that God will thwart the desire of his enemies, the destruction of David’s soul, shaming them. Second, he prays that Jehovah will restore a joyful, praising spirit to those who love and seek him.

Note that the focus of David’s prayer is not his physical circumstances, nor is it self-centered. Even in his plight, David’s concern is for the state of his soul and the spiritual welfare of his fellow saints. Can the same be said of us?

Sing or pray Psalter #188.

 

February 23—How are the Mighty Fallen!

Read 2 Samuel 11

Why is David’s grievous fall recorded in Holy Scripture? “For our admonition” according to 1 Corinthians 10:11.  First, we must avoid the things that occasioned David’s sin. David laid aside his armor when it was his duty to fight; he slothfully indulged himself in the palace (he arose from his bed at “eveningtide”: there he had been indulging himself in the afternoon.) He allowed his wandering eye to covetously dwell upon an unlawful object. Second, David’s attempts to conceal rather than confess his sin occasioned even greater sins. “A guilty conscience estranges the heart from God, so that it is no longer able to count upon His protection” (Pink). Third, though his youthful conduct had been exemplary, David fell in middle age: he gave over the work of mortifying sin before his work was at an end (John Owen). Fourth, beware your deceitful heart! David once felt guilty about cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe. Now he callously tempts Uriah to break a vow (v. 11), makes him drunk, and then orchestrates his murder, who was a faithful servant and an honorable man. All this because David feared men rather than God and desired to preserve his reputation.

Seeing we know these things before, let’s beware lest we also fall from our own steadfastness (2 Pet. 3:17).

Sing or pray Psalter #82.

 

February 24—Conviction, Repentance, Forgiveness, Chastisement

Read 2 Samuel 12

“The thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Sam. 11:27). But God in his mercy didn’t send enemies or death to David: he sent a prophet. Nathan didn’t directly accuse David; he told him a parable. (Perhaps we can learn from his wise example how to confront fellow believers who walk in sin.) David’s reaction to the parable reveals “What a strange thing the heart of a believer is…often filled with righteous indignation against the sins of others, while blind to its own!” (Pink). Then Nathan plainly declares, “Thou art the man.” David’s hard heart is pricked.  He confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan immediately responds, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin.” But he continues, “Howbeit…”

“Though God forgives His people their sins, yet He frequently gives them plain proof of His holy abhorrence of the same, and causes them to taste something of the bitter fruit which they bring forth…There is mercy in our chastening’s, and no matter how heavily the rod may smite, we have good cause to say, “And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds…Thou our God has punished us less than our iniquities deserve’ (Ezra 9:13)” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #140.

 

February 25—Pleas for Pardon

Read Psalm 51

David’s brief confession of sin in 2 Samuel 12 is notable because of the recognition that his sin was ultimately against the Lord. To consider the depth and sincerity of his repentance, we turn to Psalm 51. Notable there are the many terms he uses for sin. “It is ‘transgression’…the revolt of a subject’s will against its true King…It is ‘iniquity’…acting unjustly or crookedly. It is ‘sin’ or ‘missing the mark’…. It is pollution and filth, from which nothing but atoning blood can cleanse. It is ‘evil’ (v. 4) …It is a fretting leprosy, causing him to cry, ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean…’ (v.7)” (Pink).

Correspondingly, “David prayed that his sins might be “blotted out’ (v. 1), which petition conceives of them as being recorded against him. He prayed that he might be ‘washed’ (v. 2) from them, in which they are felt to be foul stains…He prayed that he might be ‘cleansed’ (v. 7), which was the technical word for the priestly cleansing of the leper…not only lepers, but those who had become defiled by contact with a dead body, were thus purified (Num. 19); and on whom did the taint of this corruption cleave as on the murderer of Uriah?” (Pink). Above all, David prays for a clean heart (v. 10), a full measure of the Holy Spirit (v. 11), and restoration to full communion with God (v. 12).

Sing or pray Psalter #141.

 

Febuary 26—The Blessed Forgiven

Read Psalm 32

Like Psalm 51, Psalm 32 is usually attributed to the period of David’s life following his exchange with the prophet Nathan, but Psalm 32 follows Psalm 51. Psalm 51 is full of earnest contrition and pleas for forgiveness. Psalm 32 begins with the joyful exclamation of one who has been assured that he is forgiven. “At the close of Psalm 51 David had prayed, ‘O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise’ (v. 15): here the prayer has been heard, and this is the beginning of the fulfillment of his vow” (Pink). Truly, David had experienced that “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15). Now he knows from experience that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In Psalm 51:13 David had vowed that teaching would follow his restoration of communion with God: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” That vow he also begins to fulfill in Psalm 32:6 and vv. 8–9. He exhorts the godly not to hide their sins, but to pray to God (v. 6). And he commands the sinner not to be stubborn, for “many sorrows shall be to the wicked.” Do we heed these inspired admonitions?

Sing or pray Psalter #83.

 

February 27—In the Power of His Might

Read 1 Chronicles 20

1 Chronicles 20 begins like 2 Samuel 11 but skips over David’s fall into sin and repentance, focusing instead on Israel’s capture of the Rabbah, the capital city of Ammon, and their subsequent victories over the Philistine giants of Gath. Regarding the Ammonites, 1 Chronicles 20:3 relates that David “cut them” in pieces with saws, plow shears and axes. Some commentators agree with this rendering, noting that such violent executions were fitting to the worshippers of Molech. Since the word “them” is not in the original, however, others think the phrase is better translated “put them to saws, etc.,” meaning that they became forced laborers like those referred to 1 Chronicles 22:2.

David’s former victory over Goliath inspired his men to courageously face additional giants. Likewise, the victory of the captain of our salvation over sin and death should inspire us to face the spiritual giants in our lives with courage. What temptations and besetting sins rise up against you today? Put on the whole armor of God and face them in the confidence that the victory is ours in Christ Jesus.

Sing or pray Psalter #392.

 

February 28—Grievous Fruits

Read 2 Samuel 13

David’s grievous sins now begin to bear their natural, grievous fruits. His chastenings “corresponded exactly to the character of his iniquities” (Pink). Amnon and Absalom committed the same sins that their father had committed; fornication and murder. And David, who as king was the rightful executor of justice, shamefully failed to punish either of them. David was an unwise, indulgent father (1 Kings 1:6). Writes Pink, David allowed “his natural affections to override his better judgment, instead of (as it should be) the judgment guiding the affections—it is not without reason and meaning that the head is set above the heart in our physical bodies! No doubt the fact that David had several wives made it much more difficult to rule his offspring as duty required—how one wrong leads to another!”

Both Amnon and Absalom’s sins were unconscionably premeditated. (And Amnon’s was abetted by a godless friend, Jonadab. “A companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20b).) Amnon was an adulterer and Absalom a murderer long before they acted. Both were overcome with unbridled lust which brought forth death and sin. But “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).

Sing or pray Psalter #64.

 

March 1—Devilish Wisdom

Read 2 Samuel 14

Though occasioned by Amnon’s incest, Absalom’s murder of his brother was a means to an end. Amnon was the oldest of David’s sons, the expected heir of the throne. But Absalom, the second son, desired that throne. Absalom had fled to his maternal grandfather, the king of Geshur (1 Chron. 3:2). Now Joab, “an astute politician—an unprincipled man of subtle expediency,” conspires to bring him back to Jerusalem. Joab’s instrument is a “wise woman” from Tekoah, but her so-called “wisdom” descends “not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15). With her contrived parable she attempts to soothe David’s conscience for not executing his murderous son. She appeals to David’s natural affections, and David authorizes Joab to bring Absalom back. Yet, still he puts on a show of sternness, refusing to see Absalom. And so, Absalom resorts to further lawlessness.  “There is no escape from the outworking of the principle of sowing and reaping” (Pink). Fellow parents, let’s be warned!

All of Absalom’s actions revealed “what a godless and unscrupulous scoundrel he was” (Pink). Despite his reprehensible character, the people esteemed him for his beauty. How like today’s world and the people they idolize! Who or what do we value?

 

March 2—A Prayer to the Sovereign One

Read Psalm 86

A number of psalms are attributed to this turbulent period in David’s life, some on the basis of their headings, others on the basis of their content. These psalms give us further insight into the historical account of 2 Samuel. Psalm 41 and 55, for example, offer one explanation regarding David’s apparent passivity as Absalom’s conspiracy strengthens. Not only is David’s heart sick: he is physically unwell. He writes of his “bed of languishing,” “sickness,” “evil disease,” and “the terrors of death.” Similarly, he begins Psalm 86 by acknowledging his poor and needy condition.

Notable in Psalm 86 are David’s many references to Jehovah as “Lord,” meaning “Sovereign One” (vv. 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15). In his troubles, he took comfort in the knowledge that Jehovah controls all circumstances and all people. Also notable are the many explanations David adds to his petitions, denoted by the words “for” or “because” (vv.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 13, 17). David notes his own helplessness, his covenant relationship to Jehovah, his readiness to pray, his confidence that the Lord will answer his prayers, and Jehovah’s incomparable goodness, mercy, greatness, and faithfulness. Are we quick to turn to the Sovereign One in our troubles?

Sing or pray Psalter #233.

 

March 3—Hearts Revealed

Read 2 Samuel 15

All of the princes rode mules (2 Sam. 13:19) except arrogant, scheming Absalom. And now “From the employment of force, he resorted to craftiness…the leading characteristics of the devil: the violence of the “lion” and the guile of the “serpent” (Pink). How does Absalom sow discontent among the people? He does not attack David’s person, but his government. So, too, our enemies would tempt us to be dissatisfied with our king’s government, with the requirements of his law and the difficulties he bestows in his providence. Then Absalom announces his reign in Hebron, his birthplace and the city in which David had also commenced his reign. In response, David, betrayed by Ahithophel, his familiar friend, flees over Kidron (see John 18:1–2) to the wilderness. Why? He was the rightful king, but he understood that Jehovah was using his reprobate son to chasten him, and he humbly submits. The Holy Spirit works through “Changing circumstances…for the development and exercise of different graces” (Pink). What graces is he cultivating in you at present?

Absalom’s rebellion revealed the hearts of those who were unfaithful to David as well as those who were unswervingly loyal. “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (v. 6), but all the Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites (foreigners!) remained true to David. How wondrously again David typifies Christ, who was rejected by many in Israel, and so turned to the Gentiles.

Sing or pray Psalter #163.

 

March 4—Pray for Zion’s Peace

Read Psalm 122

Psalm 122 may have been written at a different time in David’s life, but let’s consider this earnest prayer for Jerusalem’s peace in light of the current context. In Psalm 55:9–11 David describes the unrest that Absalom and Ahithophel stirred up in Jerusalem this way: “I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it. Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.” Perhaps he penned Psalm 122 as he lay on his sick bed. Or maybe this is a prayer he uttered as he fled Jerusalem, desiring the peace of Jehovah’s dwelling place more than his own safety or comfort.

Brothers and sisters, how greatly do we desire the peace of Jehovah’s dwelling place, the church? Do we pray for that peace? Do we do all we can to promote peace within our congregations and denomination, or do our words, actions, and attitudes sow discord in Christ’s body? Do our responses to current issues—the proposed Psalter revision comes to mind—encourage godly discussion or cause unnecessary division?  “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9).

Sing or pray Psalter #348.

 

March 5—A Song in Distress

Read Psalm 3

Matthew Henry wrote that “weeping must never hinder worshipping.” A.W. Pink added, “We may worship God in the minor key as truly as in the major.” Did you notice that Psalm 3 is titled, “A Psalm [that is, a song] of David, when he fled from Absalom his son”? Perhaps this is the song David sang when he “was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God” (2 Sam. 15:32).

What triumph of faith is found in Ps. 3! David acknowledges that his enemies are numerous, active, and confident. The conspirators were well aware of David’s sins—Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather (see 2 Sam 23:23, 24, and 39 and 2 Sam. 11:3)—and likely presumed that Jehovah was no longer on David’s side. But he fixes his gaze not on them, but on Jehovah. David had ascended Mount Olivet with covered head: Jehovah lifted his head and ensured his peaceful rest in the wilderness (vv. 3 and 5). Though battle looms, David is so certain of Jehovah’s aid that he sings of victory in the past tense (v. 7). And notice again, his concern is not solely for himself, but for all the people of God.

Sing or pray Psalter #5.

 

March 6—Facing Another Night

Read Psalm 4

David confidently sang Psalm 3. He had awakened aware of Jehovah’s faithfulness and new mercies and had declared, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me” (v. 6). But he sings Psalm 4 as he faces another night. He is weary, and his enemies draw nearer. Still, he doesn’t despair: he cries out again to Jehovah. Dear Christian, is that where you turn as darkness falls and the troubles and the sins of the day gone by would arise and accuse you?

After David calls to Jehovah, he addresses his enemies, calling them to repentance and defending his status as Jehovah’s anointed one. He orders them to “Stand in awe, and sin not.” “Stand in awe” could also be translated “tremble,” “a word by which he rebukes their stupidity in running headlong in their wicked course, without any fear of God, or any sense of danger” (Calvin). David exhorts them to self-examination in the still of the night, and condemns their outward show of religiosity. Though they were the ones with access to the altar and the ark, David trusts that Jehovah will hear him, and in that confidence, he sleeps.

Sing or pray Psalter #8.

 

March 7—Pure Words

Read Psalm 12

Psalm 12 begins with a brief, heartfelt cry: “Help, Lord!” David cries to God because it seems as if the wicked have overtaken the land; he can scarcely find a godly man. Especially notable about the numerous ungodly is their wicked speech. With their words they speak vanity, flatter, oppress the poor and needy, and exalt those who are vile. Though David rightly maintains that Jehovah will cut off flattering lips and the tongues that speak proud things, these unbelievers boast, “Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (v. 4).

Then David contrasts the speech of the ungodly to that of Jehovah: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (v. 6). David trusted that Jehovah’s pure word would preserve all who trusted in him from the mighty enemies that surrounded them. Likewise, his word is the means by which our God preserves his church still today. And as his people, we’ve been bought with a price. Not even our lips are our own. Do the words that we speak edify and minister grace to the hearers?

Sing or pray Psalter #21.

 

Dec. 8 – Hear! Hear! Hear!

Read Psalm 81

Psalm 81 seems more familiar when one calls to mind the first stanzas of its only versification in our Psalter: #222.  “Now to God, our Strength and Savior, render praise and loudly sing,” and, “Let the trumpet, far resounding, this our festal day proclaim…”  This psalm begins with a call to joyful praise, for it’s a feast day, one of the days on which the priests sounded the call to worship with the trumpet.  The keeping of this day is a law of the God who redeemed Israel from Egypt.  He saved them: they are his people.  Therefore, he has the right to demand that they hear and obey his word (vv. 8, 11, and 13).  But they refuse to hear.  Though Jehovah alone can satisfy their need, they turn instead to idols.  And so, instead of filling their mouths and subduing their enemies, Jehovah in judgement gives them over to their sin.

Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.  Ps. 81 reminds us that we will be filled by opening our ears and hearkening—that is, hearing and obeying—the word of our Strength and Savior.  He is the bread of life by which we shall live.  Is his word sweeter than honey to your mouth (Ps. 119:103)?

Sing or pray Psalter #222.

 

Dec. 9 – Love and Life

Read Psalm 16

Nothing that we are or do adds anything to the triune God.  Even “the salvation of the whole church adds nothing to his glory, but is only a revelation of the glory he already has in himself” (Doctrine According to Godliness). David recognized this reality.  “Thou art my Lord,” he exclaims in Psalm 16, “my goodness extendeth not to thee.”  How does David respond to that knowledge?  He resolves to do good to God’s people.  David calls his brothers and sisters in Christ the “excellent of earth.”  Is that how you view your fellow church members?  Is your love evidenced by deeds you do on their behalf?

Psalm 16 is a Messianic Psalm.  Do you hear the words of Christ in verses 9–10?  David prophesied our Lord’s resurrection centuries before he was born.  David also typified Christ in his dependence upon God in trouble and sorrow, and his refusal to look to other gods for joy or guidance.  Because God did not leave our Savior in the grave, we can rest in hope, and we can bury our loved ones in hope.  He will safely lead us through this life and raise us, too, to the place of “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore.”

Sing or pray Psalter #27.

 

Dec. 10 – The Sun and the Son

Read Psalm 19

This past August 21 marked “The Great American Eclipse.”  Multitudes traveled to the fourteen states in which the eclipse could be seen in totality.  As the moon blocked the sun, people responded with intense emotion.  Excitement and wonder moved some to tears.  Truly, there is no people or nation where the sun’s testimony to God’s eternal power and divinity is not heard.  But the reprobate respond to creation’s inescapable testimony about the Creator by worshipping his creatures.  When God’s people consider his creatures, they are driven to “contemplate the invisible things of God” (Belgic Confession, Art. 2).

The single source of light that sustains all life on earth pictures the Son, who is the source of all spiritual life.  When the church’s bridegroom comes, he will shine with the light of 10,000 suns.  The glory of his holiness will so fill the universe that every eye will see him.   To some his coming will be terrible.  To those whose sins have been washed away by his blood, his coming will mark the end of all their sorrows and the answer to all their prayers.  Do we anticipate his coming by delighting in his word?  Are we, like David, fervent in our desire and our prayers to be cleansed from hidden and presumptuous sins?

Sing or pray Psalter #39.

 

Dec. 11 – All of Grace

Read 1 Chronicles 1

2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  Mining wisdom’s treasures from the first chapters of 1 Chronicles might require a little more effort on our part than, say, mining Romans 8, but there are treasures to be found there.  Let’s go digging!

1 Chronicles 1 traces humanity from Adam to Jacob and Esau and then follows Esau’s descendants, who became the nation of Edom.  The whole human race has descended from one man.  Yet how quickly two families manifested themselves in history: God’s elect and the reprobate.  Did you recognize the name of Nimrod, the mighty hunter who founded the kingdom of Babel?  Did you shudder when you considered the wickedness of the men who lived during the time of Peleg, in whose days the earth was divided at the tower of Babel?  Did you smile in wonder when you read the name God gave Jacob, the deceiver: “Israel, Prince of God”?  By nature, Jacob was totally depraved, just like his twin brother.  But Jehovah’s chose Jacob’s children for his friends, while Esau’s were his enemies.  Are you a friend of God?  That’s a wonder of his grace!

Sing or pray Psalter #244.

 

Dec. 12 – From Sinners and Strangers

Read 1 Chronicles 2

1 Chronicles 2 traces the genealogy of the tribe of Judah, the line from whom Shiloh would come (Gen. 49:10).  You recognized some of the names of Judah’s children, didn’t you?  What came to your mind when you read Onan’s name – selfishness?  Did Tamar’s name remind you of her father-in-law’s lust and her own deception?  When you came across the name of Achan, the troubler of Israel, did you remember how his greed resulted in Israel’s defeat by Ai?  Let’s not use their negative examples to excuse our own sins: Jehovah chastened each one.

Judah’s genealogy also includes Boaz and Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth, the Moabitess.  From this line of sinners and strangers came David, and David’s Son, our savior.   “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.  Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:16-17).

Sing or pray Psalter #243.

 

Dec. 13 – Past, Present, and Future Joy

Read Psalms 42 and 43

Though the chronological reading plan we’re following doesn’t link Psalms 42 and 43, they contain the same refrain: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?…”  In Psalm 42 the psalmist, thirsting for God, recalls the past, when he joyfully attended God’s house with fellow saints (v. 4).  Remembering his joy in God, he acknowledges that he shouldn’t be downcast (v. 5) but confesses that he is (v. 6).  That’s certainly our experience at times, too, isn’t it?  Still, the psalmist affirms that God is with him in the present, both by day and night (v. 8).  Notice: at night, when waves of trouble threaten to billow over his soul, the psalmist directs his thoughts to God in song and prayer.

In Psalm 43, the psalmist still experiences bitter oppression from the enemy.  Again he asks God, “Why?”  But he also makes this confession regarding the future: “I will go unto the altar of God…”  Though he is uncertain why God is sending these trials, he still longs to return to the tabernacle, where God, the source of his joy, dwells.  He asks to be led there by God’s light and truth, so that there he might praise the God of his salvation.

Sing or pray Psalter #120.

 

Dec. 14 – God is Good to Israel

Read Psalm 73

Asaph was a Levite whom David appointed to minister in the tabernacle (see 1 Chron. 6:31–32, 39).  Asaph opens Psalm 73 with a resolute declaration: “Truly God is good to Israel,” but only recently he had doubted that truth.  He observed unbelievers who abounded in material wealth and mocked the realities of death and God.  Their seemingly carefree lives made his daily struggle against sin and the chastening he endured as he strove to live a righteous life seem vain.  Asaph’s focus was in the wrong place.  He never voiced his complaint, however, because he loved God’s people and couldn’t bear the thought of dragging others down with him as he stumbled.  Instead, he entered the sanctuary, and there, in the presence of fellow saints, his earthly perspective was replaced with an eternal one.  There he saw that the pleasures and prosperity of the wicked are bestowed on them in love.

The knowledge that Asaph acquired in the sanctuary bears fruit.  First, he repents of his sins, naming them: foolishness and ignorance.  In light of his own unfaithfulness, he rejoices in Jehovah’s faithfulness and willingly submits to his guidance.  How would God guide him?  By his word and Holy Spirit; in his providence; and to glory.  Asaph also confesses that he desires no thing or pleasure more than God, and he resolves to continue to draw near to God and to declare to others his wonderful works.  Does your weekly attendance in the sanctuary bear such fruit?

Sing or pray Psalter #203.

 

Dec. 15 —Doubt Again

Read Psalm 77

In Psalm 73 Asaph recounted a serious spiritual struggle, at the end of which he declared that God is good to his people and expressed his intent to draw near to him.  In Psalm 77, Asaph once again wrestles with doubt and dismay.  He can’t sleep.  He prays and meditates throughout the night, but thoughts of God bring him no peace.  He wonders aloud if God has forgotten him, even rejected him.  Those doubts and fears sound similar to the ones with which he wrestled previously, don’t they?  That should comfort us, for how often don’t we overcome one temptation or trial, only to meet with—and sometimes succumb to—a similar foe on the following day?

What brings Asaph out of the spiritual pit in which he now finds himself?  He calls to mind Jehovah’s works in the past.  Chiefly, he reflects on the wonder of the redemption of God’s people from the land Egypt through the Red Sea (vv. 14ff).  The redemption of Israel from the bondage of Egypt pictures our redemption from sin and death.  The next time you are tempted to doubt or despair, consider Jehovah’s wonderful work in saving you.

Sing or pray Psalter #212.

 

Dec. 16 — Instruction with a Purpose

Read Psalm 78

In Psalm 78, Asaph recounts Israel’s history from the Red Sea to the reign of David.  His storytelling has a purpose: the instruction of the children in Israel, “that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (v. 7).  Parents, do we instruct our children with that lofty goal in the forefront of our minds?  We must spend time applying their catechism lessons and memory verses to their lives, not just make sure they get every word right.  And children and young people, don’t learn your Bible or catechism lessons well just to get a good grade.  Remember: the history of God’s people was recorded for our instruction (1 Cor. 10:11).

The recurring negative theme of Psalm 78 is summarized in verses 10–11.  Israel did not keep God’s covenant: they refused to walk according to his law.  Repeatedly they forgot his works and wonders.  They acknowledged God as their rock and their redeemer, but though they honored him with their lips, their heart was far from him (see Isa. 29:13 and Matt. 15:8).  They were an unfaithful people.  Israel’s negative example must elicit our own self-examination.  What wonders has God worked in your life?  Recall his faithfulness to you, and worship him in spirit and in truth.

Sing or pray Psalter #215.

 

Dec. 17 – Look for the King!

Read 1 Chronicles 3

1 and 2 Chronicles originally comprised one book that was written around the end of the Old Testament, during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Many believe Ezra to be the author of Chronicles, noting that the last verses of 2 Chronicles and the first verses of Ezra overlap.  1 and 2 Chronicles follow the genealogy of God’s people from Adam, the very first word of 1 Chronicles, trace that genealogy through David and his sons, and point God’s people to look for the coming of the Son of David, the Messiah.  1 and 2 Chronicles are inserted at this point in our chronological study because of their focus on events from the life of David and the building of the temple by Solomon.  The books focus on the ways in which David typified the Messiah: Saul’s reign, as well as the more deplorable events of David’s reign, including his adultery with Bathsheba and Absalom’s rebellion, are excluded.  The books also emphasize the priesthood and God’s presence with his people.  They were written to encourage those who had returned from exile and wondered if God’s promises would ever be finally and fully fulfilled.

We live in the last days of the New Testament.  As we study 1 and 2 Chronicles, let’s be encouraged that all of Jehovah’s promises to us are “yea” and “Amen” in the Son of David who is coming again.

Sing or pray Psalter #207.

 

Dec. 18 – The Prayer of Jabez

Read 1 Chron. 4

1 Chron. 4 contains the obscure passage that occasioned Bruce Wilkinson’s bestselling book The Prayer of Jabez, published in 2000.  Wilkinson suggests that mimicking Jabez’s prayer will “release God’s favor, power, and protection.”  He wrote that because Jabez believed “a supernatural God” would “show up to keep [him] from evil” his “life was spared from the grief and pain that evil brings.”

But Jabez’s very name means “sorrow.”  And for what exactly did this honorable young man pray?   He prayed for Jehovah’s blessing, mindful that he would experience that blessing only in the way of keeping God’s commandments (Deut. 11:26).  Though he lived during the time of the judges, when Israel did not yet possess all of Canaan, he prayed by faith regarding his inheritance.  Jabez “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).  He prayed that Jehovah’s hand would lead him, hold him, and even rest upon him in judgement, if need be (see Ps. 139:10 and 1 Chron. 21:17).  And when Jabez prayed that Jehovah would keep him from evil, he prayed for deliverance not from earthly trouble, but from sin.  He understood that “many sorrows shall be to the wicked” (Ps. 32:10a).  When interpreted correctly, in the light of God’s word, Jabez’s prayer is certainly a prayer we can imitate.

Sing or pray #385.

 

Dec. 19 – Sheep for the Slaughter

Read Psalm 44

How would a prosperity preacher apply Ps. 44 to the Christian life?  For the theme of this psalm is that of faith and faithfulness that seems unrewarded.  In vv. 1–3 the psalmist recalls the glorious past: with his own hand Jehovah drove the heathen out of Canaan and planted his people there.  The psalmist confesses that still he trusts in God as the deliverer of Israel (v. 4–8).  (Did you notice that throughout the psalm the subject switches back and forth from singular to plural, from I to we?  This Maschil, or “teaching psalm,” may have been read antiphonally, with a single speaker leading and the congregation responding.)  However, even though they boast in God, his people experience desertion, not deliverance.  And this trouble has come upon them even though they have not forgotten God and have been faithful to his covenant (vv. 17–22).  So they cry to him, “Awake!  Arise!  Redeem!” (vv. 23–26).

A prosperity preacher would not be able to apply Ps. 44, but the inspired apostle Paul was.  Paul understood that tribulation is the lot of the believer, but he knew that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord (see. Rom. 8:35ff).  Is that your confidence in trouble?

Sing or pray Psalter #121.

 

Dec. 20 – God Will Ransom My Soul

Read Psalm 49

As with all the psalms, Psalm 49 is an inspired song.  But here the psalmist emphasizes that fact before getting to his main point.  He declares that before opening his mouth to instruct others, he opened his ear to “a parable” and then meditated on the wisdom that he heard.  Do we turn an open ear and heart to God’s word before we presume to counsel others?  Wisdom doesn’t originate with us, but with the Almighty.

The psalmist then calls on all the inhabitants of the world to open their ears.  He asks both rich and poor, “Why should I fear the wealthy who oppress me?” (vv. 5, 16).  He notes that the ungodly rich man may be powerful in this life, but he can give none of his riches in exchange for his soul.  Generation after generation see that a man leaves his wealth when he dies, yet they perpetuate the folly of trusting in riches.  In contrast, the psalmist trusts in God, and centuries before Christ’s incarnation, he makes the remarkable confession that God himself will pay the ransom price for his soul.  In whom or what do we place our trust?

Sing or pray Psalter #135.

 

Dec. 21 – A Pilgrim Psalm

Read Psalm 84

Psalm 84 can be divided into three sections.  In verses 1–4 the psalmist expresses his pilgrim longing for Jehovah’s dwelling place.  Far from Jehovah’s courts, he envies the little sparrows who make their nests and raise their young in the shelter of the altar of burnt offering.  Commentator A. Moyter notes, “A daring and telling image.  Such is the safety to be found in [Jehovah’s] altar that birds would dare to nest there and expose their young to the undying flame!”  Is that the safety we find in the cross of our Savior, though resting there means we are also partakers of his sufferings? (see 1 Pet. 4:12).

Verses 5–9 describe the pilgrims’ journey to Jehovah’s dwelling place as a pilgrimage through an arid valley.  Theirs is a difficult but blessed path, for these happy people find their strength in Jehovah, who refreshes and sustains them along the way.  Finally, the psalmist lauds the pilgrim’s goal: Jehovah’s courts.  Note: the courts are precious only because Jehovah, the sun (giver and sustainer) and shield (protector) of his people dwells there.  In the New Testament Jehovah’s people are his dwelling place.  Do you love his church as the psalmist did?

Sing or pray Psalter #229.

 

Dec. 22 – Mercy and Truth Met Together

Read Psalm 85

In Psalm 85 the psalmist recalls the grace Jehovah showed to his people in the past.  He freed them bondage in Egypt, covered all their sins, and removed his justly-deserved wrath.  But now they again experience his indignation.  Will he again forgive?  The psalmist asks this and then resolves to hear Jehovah’s word, assured that he will speak peace to his people.  Still, the psalmist qualifies the experience of that favor: the people must forsake their folly.  Only then will their land flourish once more.  How can the psalmist be so sure of Jehovah’s repeated blessing?  His hope is in Jehovah’s covenant, the covenant that is Calvary-based.  At the cross, mercy and truth met together; righteousness and peace kissed each other (v. 10).

When we experience dearth in our lives—a lack of spiritual zeal, weariness in soul and body—let’s follow psalmist’s example.  (1) Recall God’s past mercies.  (2) Repent—or, if need be, plead that God will work true repentance in our hearts: “Turn us, O God!” (v. 4).  (3) Listen to his word.  (4) Meditate on the good news of the gospel.  (5) And resolve by his grace to walk obediently in his way.

Sing or pray Psalter #230.

 

Dec. 23 – To God, Against God

1 Chronicles 5

1 Chronicles 5 contains the genealogies of the tribes that settled east of the Jordan River: Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.  The chapter briefly notes the shameful incident that cost Reuben the birthright.  It also contains two additional instructive anecdotes.  The first recounts a time when the men of all three tribes crushed their enemies (vv. 18–22).  These men were bold warriors, but they didn’t trust in their own strength or weapons: they trusted in God and cried to him in the battle.  That war, the chronicler notes, “was of God” (v. 22).  But the descendants of those valiant men came to a bitter end.  Like their father Reuben, they were adulterers.  They committed spiritual adultery with the idols of the surrounding nations and so forfeited their inheritance in the land of Canaan and their spiritual inheritance in heaven.

When we are tried, do we turn to God or do we set ourselves against him?

Sing or pray Psalter #147.

 

Dec. 24 —Jehovah Reigns

Read Psalm 93

To gird oneself is to secure one’s loose clothing or to fasten a weapon onto one’s body to prepare for action.  Psalm 93 says that God girds himself: he girds himself with strength.  He’s ready to act.  That knowledge comforts the psalmist because he’s surrounded by a tumultuous sea.  He refers not to a literal flood, though Jehovah is certainly sovereign over the terrifying storms that sometimes take place at sea.  No, the psalmist paints a word picture of the wicked, who “are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isa. 57:20).

The psalmist then lists three things that Jehovah established sure and immovable: the earth, his throne, and his testimonies.  Spurgeon comments, “As the rocks remain unmoved amid the tumult of the sea, so does divine truth resist all the currents of man’s opinion and the storms of human controversy.”  What comfort for us as the storm of secularism and the tide of Islam lift their voice against God’s word and against his saints!  All these waves are in the hand of the King.  In his ears, the raging of the ungodly is just a bunch of futile noise, noise that he can and will still at his appointed time.

Sing or pray Psalter #252.

 

Dec. 25 – Atonement for Israel

1 Chronicles 6

The genealogy of the Levites in 1 Chronicles 6 includes some familiar names, including Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Aaron’s sons.  Azariah was the first to execute the office of high priest in Solomon’s temple (v. 10; see 1 Kings 4:2).  The prophet Samuel, son of Elkanah and Hannah, served as judge of Israel and anointed both Saul and David

to be king.  Included in the Levitical line were those who served as singers in the temple.  Among them were Heman, who wrote Psalm 88 (v. 33), Asaph, author of Psalm 50 and 73–83 (v. 39), and Ethan, to whom Psalm 89 is attributed (v. 44).  But it’s the ministry of the sons of Aaron that was most central to the temple worship, for they were appointed “to make an atonement for Israel” (v. 49).  Those priests, declares Hebrews 8:5, served “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.”  They pointed to Jesus Christ, the high priest of God, who “offered one sacrifice for sins forever.”

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession…” and “…come boldly unto the throne of grace.” (Heb. 4:14–16).

Sing or pray Psalter #302.

 

Dec. 26 – The Psalm Without Hope?

Psalm 88

The single psalm attributed to Heman is a bitter lament.  The psalmist suffers under God’s wrath, and he’s terrified of dying in such a state, sure that then he will be among those whom God remembers no more.  Yet he’s not sure life is worth living anymore, either: it’s bad enough that he’s been forsaken by lover and friend, but what’s a believer to do when even God seems to hide his face?  Psalm 88’s heading tells us that it is a Maschil.  What can we learn here?  Despite his trouble, the psalmist holds fast to his profession: God is his Savior.  This psalm has been called “the psalm without hope,” but there is hope the psalmist’s address of God: “Lord God of my salvation.”  Nor does Heman fail to pour out his heart to God.  In verses 1, 9, and 13, he notes his urgent, ceaseless prayers.

Perhaps you have experienced such troubles.  Perhaps you haven’t.  There is one man who experienced the grief that Heman knew to an immeasurable degree: our Lord Jesus Christ.  What troubles and what great wrath the holy Son of God bore for our sakes!

Sing or pray Psalter #240.

 

Dec. 27 – God Answers God

Psalm 102

One commentator refers to Ps. 102 as “holy ground.”  He uses that expression for two reasons.  First, this psalm provides an intimate glimpse into the intense suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Second, it contains a conversation between Christ, God incarnate, and God.  In verses 24 Christ speaks, “O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.”  God replies, “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands… they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee” (vv. 25–28).  How do we know that verses 25–28 are God’s answer, and not a continuation of Christ’s address? The writer to the Hebrews tells us so in Hebrews 1:10–12, when he refers to this passage to prove the Son’s superiority over angels, that is, to prove his divinity.

That Messiah, truly man and truly God, the one by whom God upholds all things, purged our sins and now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Sing or pray Psalter #275.

 

Dec. 28 – Eight Alls

Psalm 103

Psalm 103 is attributed to David, but, unlike many of his psalms, there is no reference to enemies here, and no allusion to a specific circumstance, good or bad.  This is a meditation on Jehovah and his great mercy toward them that fear him.  Jehovah is all-sufficient; his mercy all-encompassing.  He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.  (The psalmist speaks of spiritual disease.  Matthew Henry comments, “The corruption of nature is the sickness of the soul; it is its disorder, and threatens its death. This is cured in sanctification; when sin is mortified, the disease is healed; though complicated, it is all healed.”)  The psalmist charges his soul to remember all of Jehovah’s benefits, of which forgiveness and healing are only two.  It is not enough that his soul bless Jehovah: all that is within him must bless his holy name.

The four alls in verses 1–3 are balanced by four alls in verses 19–22.  There the psalmist notes that Jehovah’s kingdom rules over all.  He has bidden his own soul and all that is within him to bless Jehovah: now he calls on all Jehovah’s hosts and all Jehovah’s works in all places of his dominion to join him in praise.

Sing or pray Psalter #283.

 

Dec. 29 – That Man May Serve his God

Read Psalm 104

Psalm 104 poetically details God’s creation and his providence, which the Heidelberg Catechism defines as his “almighty and everywhere present power,” whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures” (Q&A 27).  Article 12 of the Belgic Confession provides a striking reason why God upholds and governs all his creatures: “for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.”  The psalmist of Psalm 104 arrives at that end.  He confesses that the earth is full of Jehovah’s riches (v. 24), but, unlike the ungodly, who make idols out of God’s creatures, Jehovah’s works compel him to meditate on God himself (v. 34).   Is the same true of us?  Romans 1:20 teaches that the invisible things of God are clearly seen in the things that are made.  But even though his “creation, preservation, and government of the universe” is “before our eyes as a most elegant book,” “he makes himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word” (B.C. Art. 2).

May his manifold works and holy word compel us to “sing unto the Lord as long as [we] live” (Ps. 104:33).

Sing or pray Psalter #288.

 

Dec. 30 – Soldiers for War

1 Chronicles 7

1 Chronicles 7 contains the genealogies of the tribes of Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher, as well as the tribe of Benjamin in part.  (Benjamin’s children are listed in greater detail in the following chapter, 1 Chronicles 8.)  These children of Jacob are warriors, “valiant men,” “soldiers for war,” “valiant men of might,” “mighty men of valor,” and “apt to the war and to battle.”  It’s fitting that Joshua, who lead Israel in conquering Canaan, is included among these strong, brave men (v. 27).

The Bible teaches that we, too, are soldiers engaged in a great war.  Ours is a spiritual battle, led by the captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3).  Have we equipped ourselves for battle today by putting on the whole armor of God (See Eph. 6:10ff.)?  “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).

Sing or pray Psalter #35.

 

Dec. 31 – These Dwelt in Jerusalem

1 Chronicles 8

1 Chronicles 8 lists the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin.  During the time of the judges, the tribe of Benjamin was nearly obliterated when, because of the sin of the men of Gibeah, the eleven other tribes of Israel went to war against them (see Jud. 19-21).  But God restored the tribe; from Benjamin came a judge, Ehud, Israel’s first king, Saul, and the apostle Paul (Phil. 3:5). Remember that the chronicler lived during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  From that point of view, it’s interesting that in verses 28 and 32 he notes certain Benjaminites who lived in Jerusalem, for in Nehemiah’s day very few desired to live there (see Neh. 11:2).  At that time, it was difficult to earn one’s living in the city, and living there was also dangerous, for Jerusalem had many enemies.

Did our ancestors have their conversation in the new Jerusalem?  Then we “should thereby be engaged to set [our] faces thitherward and pursue the way thither, whatever it cost [us]” (Matthew Henry).

Sing or pray Psalter #239.

 

Jan. 1 – Look for the King! (2)

1 Chronicles 9

1 Chronicles 9 contains the genealogies of those who returned to the land of Israel from Babylon per Cyrus’s decree.  The chronicler began in the garden of Eden with Adam.  Through the following chapters, the many names he lists both bring to mind the sins and the unfaithfulness of God’s people and the faithfulness of Jehovah.  The genealogies conclude in 1 Chronicles 9 with God’s people worshipping him in Jerusalem.  (The chronicler repeats the genealogy of Saul in verses 35–44 to bring the reader to the beginning of the book’s historical chapters: chapter 10 commences Israel’s history with Saul’s death.)  Remember the chronicler’s purpose: he would remind God’s people of his faithfulness in order to encourage them to look beyond their hardships to the coming of David’s Son.

All our hope is in that King and his coming, too.

Sing or pray Psalter #89.

 

Jan. 2 – Saul and Self-Murder

1 Chronicles 10

The chronicler briefly recounts Saul’s death.  Saul had already proved himself disobedient, and in the height of rebellion, he kills himself.  “As he had lived, so he died: proud and jealous, a terror to himself and all about him, having neither the fear of God nor hope in God” (Pink).  God himself later summarized Saul’s reign when he said, “I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath” (Hos. 13:11).  Israel must look for a king who was obedient to Jehovah’s word.

In addition to Saul, the Bible mentions only three other men who died of self-murder: Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas Iscariot (Matt. 27:5).  The Scriptures attribute the deaths of these men to their wickedness.  In the United States, willful self-murder is at an all-time high, drug overdoses (unintentional self-murder) are the leading cause of death, and physician-assisted self-murder is increasingly accepted.  “Saul’s self-inflicted death points a most solemn warning for us to watch and pray earnestly that we may be preserved from both presumption and despair, and divinely enabled to bear up under the trials of life, and quietly to hope for the salvation of the Lord (Lam. 3:26)” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #156.

 

Jan. 3 – King in Zion

2 Samuel 5

For seven and a half years David reigned patiently over the tribe of Judah in Hebron.  Now the other eleven tribes request that he rule also over them.  Their change of heart typifies true conversion, and they base their plea on their relation to David: “We are thy bone and thy flesh” (v. 1).  Likewise, we come before God on the basis of our relationship to Christ, “for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).  David is not idle after his coronation: he would reign in Zion.  The Jebusites who dwell in Jerusalem regard David with contempt.  Judah and Benjamin had both previously failed to drive them out (Josh 15:63 and Judges 1:21).  Now they ridicule, “thou shalt not come in hither, for the blind and the lame shall drive thee away.” (Pink suggests this is a better rendering of v. 6b).  Nor is our exalted Lord idle, “for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).  Hiram of Tyre acknowledges David’s rule and sends materials for his house, foreshadowing the day when the Gentiles would come to Christ’s light and be “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Even as David grew great, he attributed his success to Jehovah (2 Sam. 5:10).  “He counted it a higher honor to be the Lord’s servant than to be Judah’s king” (Spurgeon).  He knew that he had been exalted for the sake of God’s people (v. 12), and in all things he inquired the Lord’s will and obeyed his word.

Sing or pray Psalter #199.

 

Jan. 4 – Our Eternal King

Read Psalm 21

In Psalm 21 David refers to “the king” in the third person.  In Psalm 20 the people pray, “The Lord…grant thee according to thine own heart.”  In Psalm 21 they exclaim, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire.”  What did David ask of the Lord?  He prayed for life and deliverance from his enemies.  David’s requests were not motivated by selfishness; rather, he prayed for those things for the sake of God’s people, so that Jehovah’s name would be exalted by them (v. 13).  Is that the motivation behind our petitions?  Then “this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14).

Psalm 21 prophesies of the King, Jesus Christ.  Through his prayers and under his rule God’s people are “prevented with the blessings of goodness.” God has laid honor and majesty upon him.  He is most blessed forever, the one to whom God has given “length of days for ever and ever.”  He is his people’s strong defense, the one who finds out all their enemies and judges them for troubling the saints of God and obeying not his gospel (2 Thess. 1:8).

Sing or pray Psalter #45.

 

Jan. 5 – Zion’s Children

Read Psalm 87

Psalm  87 celebrates the glory of Israel’s new capital city, Jerusalem, referred to here and frequently in the scriptures as “Zion.”  What made Zion so glorious?  Jehovah himself chose her, founded her, and dwelt within her.  David cast the Jebusites out of the city; Nehemiah would later record the genealogies of the Jewish people who lived there (Neh. 7:5ff).  The psalmist looked to the day when the city of God would include sons and daughters from all nations, those born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Joh. 1:3).

In his hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” John Newton wrote:

Blest inhabitants of Zion,

Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!

Jesus, whom their souls rely on,

Makes them kings and priests to God;

’Tis His love His people raises

Over self to reign as kings,

And as priests, His solemn praises

Each for a thank off’ring brings.

 

Savior, if of Zion’s city,

I through grace a member am,

Let the world deride or pity,

I will glory in Thy name;

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,

All his boasted pomp and show;

Solid joys and lasting treasure

None but Zion’s children know.

Sing or pray Psalter #237.

 

Jan. 6 – The King and His Queen

Read Psalm 45

The psalmist’s heart is full of the King; his tongue bubbles over in a royal love song.  He first describes 10 features of the King, the groom: he is beautiful, and his speech is gracious.  Because of his gracious speech, he is blessed by God forever (v. 2).  This King is the defender of truth, meekness, and righteousness (vv. 3–4).  He is victorious over his enemies (v. 5).  He is divine: because he is God, he will rule forever, and his rule will be a righteous rule (vv. 6-7).  The King is appareled for his wedding and accompanied by a royal entourage (vv. 8–9). Then the psalmist turns his attention to the Queen, the Bride at the King’s right hand.  He calls her to forsake her past and devote herself to the King (vv. 10–11).  He acknowledges her pre-eminence, her beautiful apparel, and her companions (v. 12–14), and then relates the royal couple’s joyous homecoming to the palace (v. 15).

Dear Christian, we are members of the Bride of the King, who is both God and anointed by God.  Let’s devote ourselves to him, looking forward to the glorious homecoming that awaits all who are arrayed in the robes of his righteousness.

Sing or pray Psalter #124.

 

Jan. 7 – A Psalm for the Sabbath

Read Psalm 92

Ps. 92 bears this heading: “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day.”  The fourth commandment requires that God’s people keep the Sabbath day holy.  The Israelites were commanded not to work on the sabbath day, but that does not mean they were idle on that day.  Psalm 92 lists some of the activities that filled their Sabbath.  On that day they gave thanks to Jehovah, and they sang his praise.  Accompanied by musical instruments, they declared his lovingkindness and faithfulness in the morning and at night.  They mediated on his great works and unsearchable thoughts.  They considered the terrible end of the foolish and the blessed way of the righteous.  The command to us to keep the Sabbath day holy does not mean that we must simply be inactive on the Lord’s Day.  What activities occupy you on the Sabbath?

God promised that the O.T. saints who honored the sabbath day would find their delight in him and enjoy his rich blessings.  That promise is for us who live in the New Testament as well.

Sing or pray Psalter #251.

Oct. 8 – A Tragic Day

Read 1 Samuel 4

Proverbs 19:3 declares, “The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.”  Thus was the case when the Philistines smote Israel.  Israel’s sin led to their defeat, but instead of repenting, they grumble: “Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?”  Rather than turning to Jehovah, they decide to take the ark of the covenant with them to the battlefield.  Such is the folly of those who content themselves with an outward show of religion, though their hearts are far from God.

To Eli, the news of the slaughter of the Israelites and of the deaths of his sons pales in comparison to the tidings that the ark of God has been taken.  When he hears that, the old man dies.  Let’s learn from the sad end of this aged saint and avoid the sins that made his final years so bitter: he lacked self-control, fattening himself on the offerings of the people, and he similarly indulged his children rather than disciplining their sinful behavior.  On this tragic day God began to execute the judgment of which he spoken to Eli, for those who honor him will he honor, but those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed (see 1 Sam. 2:30).

Sing or pray Psalter #26.

 

Oct. 9 – Jehovah’s Heavy Hand

Read 1 Samuel 5

The Philistines worshipped an image that had the hands and head of a man and the body of a fish.  But though it had hands, the image of Dagon was incapable of handling (Ps. 115:7).  In contrast, the Philistines were forced to acknowledge that the destruction that befell them was the work of Jehovah’s heavy hand (1 Sam. 5:6).  Note how God used even the Philistines’ superstition for his own glory: because the severed head and hands of Dagon were found on the threshold, none stepped on that threshold for years to come.  In that way Jehovah reminded every worshipper that entered Dagon’s temple of the complete helplessness of their idol, and generations of Philistines were left without excuse for changing “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man” (Rom. 1:23).

Matthew Henry comments, “When Christ, the true Ark of the covenant, really enters the heart of fallen man…all idols will fall…sin will be forsaken….the Lord will claim and possess the throne. But pride, self-love, and worldly lusts…still remain within us, like the stump of Dagon. Let us watch and pray that they may not prevail. Let us seek to have them more entirely destroyed.”

Sing or pray Psalter #308.

Oct. 10 – The Ark Returned

Read 1 Samuel 6

The Philistines return the ark with a trespass offering: five golden emerods, or tumors, and five golden mice.  But a man cannot give gold in exchange for his soul.  Rather, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).  The Philistines are quite sure that these plagues have come upon their bodies and their fields from Jehovah’s hand, but they would still like to think that they came by chance (1 Sam. 6:9).  In contrast, the child of God rests in the knowledge that “all things come, not be chance, but by His fatherly hand” (HC, LD 10).

Bethshemesh was a city of priests, men who knew God’s instructions regarding the handling of the ark (Josh. 21:16).  Consequently, they first treat the ark with a sort of reverence, setting it upon the large stone that dominated the landscape and offering the two cows as sacrifices to Jehovah.  But then they remove the cover of the ark and look inside.  God swiftly judges their impudence.  Commentators debate the total number of people killed because the tallies of 70 and 50,000 are rendered separately in the original text, but the point is clear: our God swiftly and severely punishes rash, presumptuous sins.

Sing or pray Psalter #40.

 

Oct. 11 – Ebenezer

Read 1 Samuel 7

1 Samuel 7:2 ends with this phrase: “And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.”  For twenty years Israel has served the Philistines while the worship of Jehovah languished.  Now, in response to their lament, Samuel commands them to put away their idols.  They obey.  He then calls them to repent and recommit to Jehovah in a formal ceremony at Mizpeh.  The Philistines assume that Israel has gathered for battle and attack.  God’s people are terrified and cry to Samuel to pray for them.  Samuel first offers a sacrifice, and, on the basis of that sacrifice, Jehovah hears his prayer and smites the Philistines.  After the battle, Samuel sets up a great stone and calls it “Ebenezer,” which means “Hitherto [that is, “all the way until now”] hath the Lord helped us.”  How had God helped them?  First, by saving them from the enemy within by working repentance in their hearts.  Second, by saving them from the enemy without.

When you consider your life, are you able to confess, “Here I raise my Ebenezer.  Hither by thy help I come.  And I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home?”

Sing or pray Psalter #47.

 

Oct. 12 – Make Us a King

Read 1 Samuel 8

1 Samuel 7 records a high point in the history of Israel.  Jehovah had worked repentance in their hearts, and he rewarded that repentance with victory over their enemies.  1 Samuel 8 records a low point.  In this chapter the elders of the people come to Samuel and demand a king.  Samuel is troubled by their request.  Instead of answering them immediately, he goes to God in prayer (v. 6).  Let’s follow his example when we’re troubled and perplexed.

In obedience to the Lord, Samuel solemnly protests the people’s request, but they refuse to listen.  Jehovah gratifies their request in his wrath, for in asking for a king they have not rejected Samuel and his sons, but Jehovah himself, “that I should not reign over them” (v. 7).  Do we own Jehovah as our king?  Do we willingly submit to his reign in all areas of our lives?

Sing or pray Psalter #394.

 

Oct. 13 – A Choice Young Man

Read 1 Samuel 9

In 1 Samuel 9 God brings to Samuel the man whom he must anoint king.  And what a man he is!  Young Saul is tall and handsome.  Therefore we might presume that he was arrogant and self-centered, but not so.  He honors his father not only in deed, but also in word, and his relationship with his servant is one of mutual respect.  But this man of physical and social prowess is a spiritual weakling.  Though Samuel had judged Israel for decades, Saul does not know or recognize him.  Instead, he views God’s prophet as a good luck charm.  Saul is not interested in the word of God: he only wonders if Samuel can help him locate his lost possessions.  And he presumes that Samuel’s services can be bought with money

Why would Jehovah command Samuel to anoint such a man to be king of his people?  In order that he might clearly show how desperately Israel needed a king who loved the Lord.  That King would be typified in his father, David, who penned these prophetic words about the King after God’s own heart: “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:7–8).

Sing or pray Psalter #111.

 

Oct. 14 – “By Me Kings Reign”

Read 1 Samuel 10

1 Samuel 10 can be divided into two parts.  First, Samuel privately anoints Saul and foretells three signs that will take place that very day, confirming that his anointing is of the Lord.  Then verses 17ff record the public assembly at which Saul is selected by lot to be king.  Why did God have Samuel anoint Saul privately first?  In order that Saul himself would know that he became king not by chance, but by God’s choosing.  In the words of Daniel 4:17, “To the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”

Our God alone rules in the kingdom of men.  He declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done.  His counsel shall stand, and he will accomplish all his purpose (Isa. 46:10).  Do you believe that he is mighty enough to perfect that which concerns you, too?  (Ps. 138:8)

Sing or pray Psalter #223.

 

Oct. 15 – The Spirit of God on Saul

Read 1 Samuel 11

In 1 Samuel 10:6 Samuel tells Saul, “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt…be turned into another man.”  He adds, “For God is with thee” (v. 7), and v. 9 states, “And it was so, that…God gave him another heart.”  But we know that later God removes his Spirit from Saul.  Is not God’s grace irresistible?  Doesn’t Jesus teach that the Holy Spirit abides with his people forever? (John 14:16)

Saul’s anointing with the Holy Spirit was not a saving work.  Matthew Henry comments, “A new fire was kindled in his breast, such as he had never before been acquainted with: seeking the asses is quite out of his mind, and he thinks of nothing but fighting the Philistines, redressing the grievances of Israel, making laws, administering justice, and providing for the public safety; these are the things that now fill his head. He finds himself raised to such a pitch of boldness and bravery as he never thought he should be conscious of.”  Though the Spirit empowered Saul to lead, note this: Saul does not desire to obey nor does he delight in God’s will any more than he did before.  That is the fruit of the Spirit’s saving work in a person.

Sing or pray Psalter #391.

 

Oct. 16 – Only Fear the Lord

Read 1 Samuel 12

To demonstrate that God’s people were not justified in requesting a king, Samuel recounts Jehovah’s past faithfulness to them.  He then reiterates a principle they knew from experience: obedience ensures blessedness, while disobedience brings ruin.  But as a sign of his displeasure with their request, God sends a mighty thunderstorm at a time of year when such weather was very unusual.  Shortly before Jehovah had discomfited the Philistines with thunder (1 Sam. 7:10).  Now he visits his people with the same sign.  Greatly afraid, they entreat Samuel to pray for them. “Now they see their need of him whom awhile ago they slighted. Thus many that will not have Christ to reign over them would yet be glad to have him intercede for them, to turn away the wrath of God” (Matthew Henry).  Samuel typifies our Lord in his longsuffering response.  He comforts, encourages, and reminds God’s people that Jehovah will not forsake them for his great name’s sake.  And not only will Samuel pray for them – to do otherwise would be sin – he will continue to teach them as well.

Aren’t you thankful for the High Priest who unceasingly intercedes for us?  And do you view prayer for God’s people to be your duty, as Samuel did?

Sing or pray Psalter #350.

 

Oct. 17 – “I Forced Myself”

Read 1 Samuel 13

Saul has reigned for two years, and he is in a predicament.  His army of three thousand men, who, except for him and Jonathan, were armed only with crude farm tools—plowshares, sickles, and pickaxes—is deserting him.  Why?  Tens of thousands of Philistines are ready to engage Israel in battle, and Samuel, who promised to come and intercede for the Israelites’ victory, has not yet made an appearance.  So Saul offers a burnt offering himself.  We might sympathize with him.  After all, we’re quick to excuse our sins just like Saul did: “The people were scattering!  I thought you’d be here by now!  Look at the size of that army!  I had no other choice…but to force myself.”  Samuel replies, “Thou has done foolishly.”  Saul sinned, and his attempts to justify that sin were futile.

When you and I sin and are tempted to point to others or excuse ourselves, let’s come instead with truly repentant hearts, hearts that acknowledge that we alone are responsible for our trespass and God alone is holy and just.  “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4a).

Sing or pray Psalter #141.

 

Oct. 18 – A Rash Father and a Brave Son

Read 1 Samuel 14

In 1 Samuel 14 Saul again demonstrates that he is not worthy of the high office with which he’s been entrusted.  No longer is he little in his own sight (see ch. 15:17).  He is both wise in his own conceit and hasty in his words.  Of such a man scripture declares, “There is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12, 29:20).  “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).

In contrast to his father, Jonathan proves himself to be a wise, godly, and valiant young man.  Oh, to have the faith that Jonathan had and to confess as he confessed, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.”  Do you confront the trials in your life in the confidence that nothing is too hard for our God?

Sing or pray Psalter #392.

 

Oct. 19 – Jehovah Hates Sin

Read 1 Samuel 15

Samuel comes to Saul with this command in 1 Samuel 15:1: “Hearken unto the Lord.”  But Saul does not hearken, though he first brazenly purports to have obeyed and then points to “the people” as those who were responsible.  Samuel responds with familiar v. 22: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”  Is that how highly we value hearing and obeying God’s word, or are we like Saul, quick to excuse our disobedience?

Is there a contradiction in this chapter?  In v. 11 Jehovah declares, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king,” while in v. 29 Samuel maintains, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.”  Verse 11 is an example of an anthropomorphism, the attribution of human characteristics to the divine being.  Jehovah changes not, but the inspired writer of the scriptures has no better way to express his deep revulsion of sin than to write that man’s sin compels him to “repent.”

Sing or pray Psalter #428:1-5.

 

Oct. 20 – A Young Man After God’s Heart

Read 1 Samuel 16

Saul’s successor, a man after God’s own heart (see ch. 13:14), is an unlikely candidate, primarily because of his age.  In familiar v. 7 Jehovah says to Samuel concerning David’s oldest brother Eliab, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”  Do we devote more time to adorning our hearts or our outward appearance?

What did Jehovah see when he looked on young David’s heart?  Consider the testimony of Psalm 132:2–5: David “…vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob…I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord…”  Where was David when he made this earnest vow?  Verse 6: “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.”  He was still a youth, shepherding his father’s flocks on the hills surrounding Bethlehem!  Young people, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Sing or pray Psalter #428:6-10

 

Oct. 21 – Shaped in Private

Read 1 Samuel 17

It may seem as if David arises out of nowhere to slay Goliath.  But 1 Samuel 17 (and the preceding chapter) contain clues about David’s character that render his victory less surprising.  First, David was not self-seeking.  After being anointed king, he returned to shepherding.  Only in God’s providence was he brought into Saul’s court.  When Saul, again timid in the absence of God’s Spirit, leaves the palace for the battlefield, David returns to his sheep once more (v. 15).  Second, David is obedient.  When David’s father sends him to his brothers, David readily complies.  But he is also responsible: he first arranges for the care of the sheep.  “His faithfulness in a few things fitted him to be ruler over many things.  He who is best qualified to command, is the one who had previously learned to obey” (Pink).

Where does David come by the unshakable faith with which he faced the terrible giant?  “In the solitude of the fields…Let the foe be met and conquered in private, and we shall not have to mourn defeat when we meet him in public” (Pink).  Dear reader, is personal communion with God the source of your strength?

Sing or pray Psalter #367.

 

Oct. 22 – Praise and Envy

Read 1 Samuel 18

Consider Israel’s song when God delivered them from the Egyptians through Moses: “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:1).  David approached Goliath in the name of Jehovah of hosts and declared, “This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand” (17:46).  But Israel didn’t praise God for this victory: they praised the instrument he used instead.  They sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (18:7).  How poor was the spiritual state of God’s people under the rule of their God-forsaken king!

Such high praise could have been a temptation to pride, even for a man after God’s own heart who “behaved himself wisely” (v. 5 and 14).  But Jehovah checks what could have tempted David to conceit with Saul’s envy.  At the same time, he gives David allies in Saul’s children, Jonathan and Michal, for the hearts of all men are in his hands.

Sing or pray Psalter #368

 

Oct. 23 – David Flees

Read 1 Samuel 19

What a contrast between the end of 1 Samuel 18, “David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by,” and the beginning of ch. 19, “And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David”!  Saul’s senseless conduct testifies to the truth of Proverbs 27:4, “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?”  Jonathan intercedes for his friend’s life, reasoning, “He hath not sinned against thee, and…his works have been to thee-ward very good” (vv. 4-5).  For a short time, Saul is pacified.  We also have an intercessor, one who pleads for us perpetually before God’s throne.  Jesus pleads for us not based on our merits, but his own.  On that basis, Jehovah’s anger is turned away from us forever.

Michal’s schemes and lies demonstrate that, unlike her husband, she doesn’t trust in God.  “Solemn is it to find the man after God’s own heart married to such a woman” (Pink).  Those seeking a spouse must be mindful of 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”

Sing or pray Psalter #91.

 

Oct. 24 – God is my Defense

Read Psalm 59

What thoughts filled David’s head as Saul’s messengers surrounded his house, intent on his life?  What emotions consumed him as Michal let him down through the window and he fled into the darkness?  We know, for David recorded them in a song, Psalm 59.  David did not panic; he did not stew over the injustice of his situation.  No, he went to God in prayer.  His thoughts and his emotions were directed to God.  Is that where we turn when we are troubled, or do we give in to the temptation to futilely fret or despair?

As he crept away from the sleeping city, David prayed to Jehovah to awake and help him, to awake and punish Saul and his accomplices.   Even as he prayed, David recalled that God had been his defense and refuge in the past.  He remembered, perhaps, the victories that Jehovah had given him over the lion, the bear, and the giant, and he was encouraged that he would save him again.  In that confidence, David looked forward to morning, and vowed that he would then sing aloud of God’s mercy.

Sing or pray Psalter #157.

 

Oct. 25 – Weak Faith, Strong Friendship

Read 1 Samuel 20

A man after God’s own heart doesn’t always dwell on the mountaintops of faith.  In contrast to Psalm 59, 1 Samuel 20 and 21 reveal David at a spiritual low point.  At the end of chapter 19, David wisely fled to Samuel, and while he was there, four times God miraculously saved him from Saul and his messengers.  David doesn’t remain with God’s prophet, though.  He seeks out Jonathan, and his words to his friend testify that his focus is no longer on Jehovah but on himself and his troubles.  So weak is his faith that he asks his friend to lie.

Though Jonathan knows that David, not he, will inherit the throne, he loves David.  Their friendship is free of envy.  Jonathan sympathizes with his friend, endangers his own life to determine his father’s intentions, warns David to flee, and encourages him in the name of the Lord.  Are those characteristics that you seek in a friend?  Do they describe what kind of a friend you are?

Sing or pray Psalter #328.

 

Oct. 26 – In Jehovah I Put My Trust

Read Psalm 11

Psalm 11 gives us a glimpse into David’s heart as once again he flees from Saul.  David confesses that he trusts in Jehovah, but Saul’s injustice still pains him.  From an earthly point of view, David cannot petition a redress of grievances, for Saul’s government is thoroughly corrupt.  Therefore, David laments, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3).  But as soon those words leave his lips, he amends, “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.”  He comforts himself with the knowledge that while Jehovah tries the righteous, he sends those trials in love.  In contrast, Jehovah hates the wicked, and as the just judge, he fills the cup that they will drink with his wrath.  Even as he hides from Saul, David consoles himself with the thought that he cannot hide from God: “his countenance doth behold the upright.”

Dear Christian, the trial that you face right now is sent to you not in wrath, but in love.  Trust in him.  The eyes of our heavenly Father are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry (Ps. 34:15).

Sing or pray Psalter #20.

 

Oct. 27 – Love for Jehovah’s House

Read Psalm 27

We don’t know exactly when David wrote Psalm 27, but we do know that as an outlaw he despaired his inability to worship Jehovah in his house.  David desired to go to the tabernacle to see the beauty of Jehovah, to inquire of his will, to offer sacrifices of joy, and to sing his praises.  Every element of the worship of the tabernacle pointed to the salvation of the people of God, and there David believed he would be safe from his troubles.  Throughout his life David’s actions were consistent with his claim to love Jehovah’s house.  When his days of fleeing and fighting ceased, he determined to replace the tabernacle with a temple.  God denied him that privilege, so David busied himself with gathering materials out of which Solomon would later build it.  Can you confess that there is none upon earth that you desire beside the Lord (Ps. 73:25)?  Is your life consistent with that claim?

Though David could not frequent the tabernacle, he still trusted that Jehovah would never forsake him.  He also trusted that he would experience God’s goodness to him in this life, in the land of the living.  What evidences of God’s goodness to you do you see in your life?

Sing or pray Psalter #71.

 

Oct. 28 – Danger Signals

Read 1 Samuel 21

Do you find that the Christian life is full of ups and downs?  That was true of David’s life, too.  Previously he asked Jonathan to lie.  Now he himself lies to Ahimelech, to whom he had come to inquire God’s will (see ch. 22:13).  The man who as a youth faced Goliath doesn’t dare face Jehovah’s priest!  And instead of confessing, “There is none like unto the Lord our God,” David put his faith in Goliath’s sword, saying “There is none like unto it.”  Then he seeks refuge in the land of the Philistines with the sword of their former champion, whom he had slain, in his hand!  “Where a saint has a grieved the Holy Spirit, even common sense no longer regulates him” (Pink).  But in his mercy, God does not permit backsliding David to fraternize with the ungodly for long.

“God forbid that we should take the failures of those who preceded us as excuses for our own grievous falls…Rather let us seek grace to regard them as danger signals, set up to deter us from slipping into the snares which tripped them…Faith must be tested, and we must learn by painful experience the bitter consequences of not trusting in the Lord will all our hearts…” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #21.

 

Oct. 29 – A Contrite Spirit

Read Psalm 34

David fled to Philistia because he sought refuge from one enemy – Saul – in the territory of another.  Jehovah led David to Philistia because he would have him learn this lesson: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Ps. 118:8).  David learns this lesson well.  In response to his experience he pens Psalm 34, which exalts Jehovah as the savior of the righteous.  David had not been in communion with God: now he celebrates Jehovah’s nearness.  To whom is he near?  To “them that are of a broken heart” and “a contrite spirit.”

That David’s repentance is sincere is evidenced in his desire to teach others—particularly the young—what he has learned about the fear of the Jehovah.  He asks, “Do you want to live a long life?”  That’s what David desired, and in his foolish lack of faith, his fear that Saul would take his life from him had driven him to lie and behave deceitfully in the presence of Achish.  But now he instructs, “If you desire to live long, ‘Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good…’” (vv. 13–14).

Sing or pray Psalter #89.

 

Oct. 30 – God is for Me

Read Psalm 56

In his fear of Saul, David had trusted that the Philistines might save him.  Psalm 56 verifies the lesson he learned from that experience: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee…I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (vv. 3–4).  David’s enemies twist his words, conspire against him, hide themselves, and mark his steps.  But David comforts himself with the knowledge that God knows all his wanderings and sees his every tear (v. 8).

2 Timothy 2:12–13 declares, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”  We live in perilous times, yet we must confess with David, “God is for me” (v. 9).  Instead of retreating in fear when we’re slandered or falsely accused, we must remember that no one can lay anything to charge of God’s elect: Christ has died for us.  Nothing can separate us from his love.  In him we are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:33–39).

Sing or pray Psalter #152.

 

Oct. 31 – In the Cave of Adullam

Read 1 Samuel 22

The anointed king of Israel now resorts to a cave.  Like the King whom he typified, he had “not where to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20).  David also pictured Christ in that he was rejected by the leaders of the children of Israel.  Instead, only a beleaguered remnant resorted to him.  Likewise, our Lord Jesus calls those who are distressed by their sins.  He draws those who recognize their inability to pay the debt they owe God.  He saves those who are discontent with the vanities of this world.

Among those who resort to David are his own family members. In his book The Life of David, A.W. Pink suggests that 2 Samuel 23:8–17 are key to understanding this period in David’s life.  David and his men engage the Philistines in battle, for Saul has abdicated even this responsibility to pursue David.  The Philistines are encamped near Bethlehem, threatening the home of David’s family and causing David to long for water from the family well.  To ensure his family’s safety, David arranges for them to stay for a time in Moab, the homeland of his great-grandmother, Ruth, while he waits to “know what God will do for me.”

Sing or pray Psalter #22.

 

Nov. 1 – Thou Hast Done It

Read Psalm 52

As we read yesterday in 1 Samuel 22, David’s lie to Ahimelech had terrible, far-reaching consequences.  David acknowledges his responsibility to Ahimelech’s son Abiathar: “I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house.”

In grief and horror, David again takes up his pen.  In Psalm 52 he describes the man who loves evil rather than good.  That man devises treachery, and his tongue is the weapon he uses to execute his destruction.  In contrast to the wicked, God’s goodness endures continually.  How could David declare that at such a time?  He knew that even the wrath of man praises Jehovah (Ps. 76:10).  Doeg’s murder of the priests fulfilled God’s words to unfaithful Eli in 1 Samuel 2:31: “I will cut off…the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house” (vs. 31).  God also used these events to ripen Saul for judgement and to add the high priest to David’s camp, which would soon prove to be a great comfort and help to David (see ch. 23:6, 9 and 30:7–8).  So even in this tragedy David confessed, “I will praise thee forever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name…” (v. 8–9).

Sing or pray Psalter #145.

 

Nov. 2 – In Sweet Communion

Read 1 Sam 23

It’s a joy to witness David once again in communion with Jehovah.  Nor is he concerned solely with himself any longer: he desires to save the people of Keilah.  But David doesn’t act impulsively; he inquires of God’s will.  David’s men, on the other hand, fear being caught in the crossfire between two enemies, Saul and the Philistines.  Isn’t it true of the Christian life that doubts or hindrances can sometimes be placed in our minds by fellow believers?  David doesn’t berate his companions, however.  He simply goes to God again and asks his will.  This time God not only tells him to go, he also assures him of the victory.

What dilemma do you face at present?  Is there an important decision you must make?  Do you truly desire that the will of God direct your way?  “Where God is truly sought—that is, sought sincerely, humbly, trustfully, with the desire to learn and do that which is pleasing to Him—the soul will not be left in ignorance.  God does not mock his needy children” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #337.

 

Nov. 3 – Wonderful Salvation

Read Psalm 31

David escapes from Keilah, a fenced city (v. 21), to the rocky wilderness of Engedi.  But he hides there confessing that Jehovah alone is his strong rock and fortress (vv. 3 and 4).  David’s many and varied afflictions qualified him to write so many Psalms.  David’s name means “beloved,” and in his psalms he speaks for all of God’s beloved, his elect.  But ultimately, the voice we hear in Psalms is that of the Beloved Son in whom God is well pleased.  Like David, our Lord was popular for a brief time, but soon his neighbors and brethren forsook him.  Even his disciples fled from him in Gethsemane (v. 11).  Like David’s enemies, Christ’s enemies conspired against him with lies and devised to take away his life (vv. 6, 13).  Jesus’ strength was consumed, not because of his own iniquity, but on account of the iniquities he bore for the sake of his people (v. 10).    When his work on earth was finished, he prayed, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit” (v. 5).

Oh, how great is God’s goodness, which he has laid up for them that fear him!  How wonderful the salvation which he has wrought before the sons of men for all who trust in him! (v.19).

Sing or pray Psalter #82.

 

Nov. 4 – Events of Providence

Read 1 Samuel 24

Once again David and his men huddle deep in a cave.  (Like 1 Sam. 24:3, Jonah 1:5 and Ps. 128:3 use the expression “in, into, or by the sides of” to mean “in the heart of.”)  Saul enters the same cave to relieve himself, and David’s men are elated, certain that God has delivered Saul into David’s hand.  Undoubtedly God’s providence brought Saul there.  Saul himself confesses that in verse 18.  But why?  David’s tender conscience told him that this was not a God-given opportunity to disobey the sixth commandment; it was a test.

“We need to be exceedingly cautious how we interpret the events of Providence and what conclusion we draw from them, lest we mistake the opportunity of following out our own inclinations for God’s approbation of our conduct…He so orders his providences as to try our hearts and make manifest what is in them…An accurate knowledge of God’s Word, a holy state of heart (wherein self is judged, and its natural longings mortified), a broken will are absolutely essential in order to clearly discern the path of duty in important cases and crises” (Pink).

Sing or pray Psalter #151.

 

Nov. 5 – Avenge Not Yourselves

Read Psalm 7

A “Shiggaion” is a wandering poem composed under intense emotion.  The heading of Psalm 7 notes the origin of this Shiggaion: the words of Cush the Benjamite to David.  Some speculate that Cush was a relative of Saul who falsely accused David of attempting to harm the king; hence David’s parenthetical remark in verse four.  Whatever the case, Cush wrongfully accused David of evil, and David’s response is recorded for our benefit.   Instead of seeking revenge, he turns to God in prayer.

Have you ever been wronged by another?   Such an occasion becomes both a temptation from Satan, who would have your soul devoured by self-righteousness and hatred, and a trial from your heavenly Father, who would have you learn to more fully trust in him as your defense.  “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [that is, “commit to the Lord the right to judge”—Calvin]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord…Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19,21).

Sing or pray Psalter #13.

 

Nov. 6 – The Light of Life

Read Psalm 120

In 1 Samuel 24:9 David asks Saul, “Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, ‘Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?’”  That text suggests that Saul’s lying lips were not the only ones from which David prayed to be delivered; others were guilty of slandering him as well.  How beautifully David, who is for peace, pictures the Prince of Peace, for when given the opportunity to address Saul, his soft answer turns away that wicked man’s wrath.  And how strikingly 1 Samuel 24:22b—“And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold”—foreshadows John 7:53–8:1: “And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.”

This past summer our family toured a cave.  In one of the cave’s many rooms, our guide turned out the lights.  “There is no darkness on earth as deep as the darkness in a cave,” he said.  But the psalms that David penned in the dark caves in which he hid demonstrate the truth of Jesus’s words in John 8:12b, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Sing or pray Psalter #343.

 

Nov. 7 – The War Within

Read Psalm 140

David prayed continually to Jehovah for deliverance from the evil men who purposed to overthrow his goings, and repeatedly Jehovah delivered him. God preserved his life because the Promised Seed was to come from his line! But God also gave David the victory over himself.  “There is a continual warfare within every real Christian between the principle of sin and the principle of grace, commonly termed ‘the two natures.’  There is a spiritual Saul who is constantly seeking the life of a spiritual David; it is the ‘old man’ with his affections and appetites, seeking to slay the new man” (Pink).

Are you and I conscious of the war between the old and new man within our own hearts?  Are we as faithful as David was to pray for deliverance from the evil man, who would overthrow our goings?  Are we always on guard against his relentless attacks?

Sing or pray Psalter #385.

June 8 – Vow and Pay

Read Leviticus 27

The principle throughout Leviticus 27 is this: if one vowed to dedicate someone or something to Jehovah and then changed his mind, he was required to pay the value of the offering plus 20 (one-fifth) percent interest to redeem it.  (God does not value the souls of females, children, and the elderly less than he does the souls of able-bodied men.  The estimated worth of people here is based on their ability as physical laborers.)  Why that principle?  God desired to discourage rash vows.  This is the final chapter of Leviticus, the theme of which is “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (ch. 11:44).  Our God is forever faithful to his covenant.  In light of his faithfulness we are warned, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it…Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecc. 5:4–5).

Have you professed your faith, married another, or presented a child for baptism?  On those occasions you made vows before God.  Are you faithful to the vows that you made?

Sing or pray Psalter #207.

 

June 9 – The Numbered People

Read Numbers 1

The book of Numbers can be divided into three sections.  The first section takes place at Sinai, the second section in the wilderness of Paran, and the third section in the Moab plains.  Prophets, psalmists, and apostles frequently refer to the stories recounted in this book.  Numbers includes two censuses, one at its beginning and one near its end.

The men counted in Numbers 1 are those 20 years old and up who were able to go to war.  These are same men who were previously required to pay half a shekel as “a ransom for his soul” (Ex. 30:12).  Jehovah’s elect are a numbered people.  Are you among those purchased by his Son’s blood?   Jesus’s work for a person is always accompanied by his work in that individual.  Those who are ransomed must take arms to fight against Satan, the world, and their own sinful selves.  2 Timothy 2:19 declares, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.  And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”  Do you claim his name?  Then fight your sin.

Sing or pray Psalter #292.

 

June 10 – God in the Midst

Read Numbers 2

God instructed that when Israel camped, the tabernacle would be in the middle of the people, with the Levities, who were not numbered with those able to go to war, surrounding it.  The remaining tribes were assigned stations to the east, south, west, and north.  When they marched, Judah, the tribe from which the Captain of the Lord’s hosts would one day come, set out first, followed by the camp led by Reuben, the Levites bearing the tabernacle, the camp led by Ephraim, and the camp led by Dan.  Whether camping or marching, the tabernacle was in the middle of the entire company.  “God is in the midst of her,” Psalm 46:5 declares of the city of God, “she shall not be moved.”  That was true of “the city of God,” that is, God’s people, in the wilderness as well.

The center of something is not just its middle point.  It is “the point from which an activity or process is directed, or on which it is focused.”  Consider the sun, which is the center of our solar system and the source of all life-giving energy for our planet.  Who or what is at the center of your life?

Sing or pray Psalter #128.

 

June 11 – Station and Calling

Read Numbers 3

Moses now numbers the Levites.  The Levites from one month old and upward are numbered, for they were to take the place of the firstborn, whose lives Jehovah claimed when he spared Israel’s firstborn in Egypt.  All firstborn were to be redeemed at one month of age (see Num. 18:15-17).  Then Moses counts all the firstborn from the 11 other tribes.  Finally, Moses collects five shekels for each of the surplus 273 firstborn and gives that money to Aaron and his sons.  How tedious all of that counting must have been! Yet Moses did it because Jehovah commanded it.

In the words of my study Bible, “All priests were Levites, but not all Levities were priests.”  Aaron’s line was the priestly line; his son was appointed “chief over the chief of the Levites.”  Aaron did not take this honor to himself: he was “called of God” (Heb. 5:4).  So also Christ was appointed to be our eternal high priest, the “author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:5, 9).

Do you attend to the duties of your station and calling, no matter how tedious or honorable, willingly and faithfully? (HC, LD 39).

Sing or pray Psalter #302.

 

June 12 – Set Apart for Service

Read Numbers 4

Now Moses numbers the Levite males between the ages of 30 and 50 years.  They would serve in the tabernacle.  Why did one have to wait until he was 30?  As much as we hate to admit it when we are young, “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15).  God mercifully strips away some of our youthful foolishness as we age.  This principle still applies in the New Testament.  An elder must “not [be] a novice…” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Do you wonder if the sons of Gershon or Merari ever grumbled as they folded up the many curtains or collected the endless pillars and pins that they had to carry?  “Why can’t we carry the most holy things?”  Notably, it was one of the sons of Kohath, Korah, who rebelled because he coveted a more honorable position.  With greater privilege comes greater responsibility – only the Kohathites were in danger of dying if they looked at or touched the furniture they were assigned to carry – as well as greater temptation and greater opportunity to wreak havoc.  Those called by God to places of authority must serve humbly, “knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1).

Sing or pray Psalter #9.

 

June 13 – The Cup of the Curse

Read Numbers 5

In Numbers 5:1-4 Jehovah restates that all who were ceremonially unclean must be put outside the camp.  It was not necessarily a sin to be ceremonially unclean; in fact, periodic uncleanness was inescapable.  The point was this: spiritually, all are unclean.  In verses 5-10 Jehovah commands that those guilty of fraud confess their sin and pay restitution to the one they had wronged.  The remainder of the chapter details the strange test for adultery.

As a woman, it is difficult for me to read about this test without feeling some resentment.  What if a wife suspected that her husband had been unfaithful?  Why does the test for adultery apply only to women?  I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know this: male or female, you and I are all spiritual adulterers.  Were we to drink the cup of the curse, we would not be able to withstand the bitter pain of God’s justly inflicted wrath.  But our Savior drank the bitter cup that belonged to you and me.  His blood has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us.  Thanks to his sacrifice, our cups now run over with blessing.

Sing or pray Psalter #52.

 

June 14 – The Blessed Sinners

Read Numbers 6

If a Nazarite’s vow was broken unintentionally, he or she was required to bring three offerings to the priest before beginning again.  When one successfully fulfilled his Nazarite vow, he or she was required to bring five offerings to the priest.  Why?  Even one who satisfied the strict conditions of the Nazarite vow was still a sinner in need of atonement.  You and I are prone to pick and choose our piety.  When we meet our own meager standards, we think that God must be rather pleased with us as well.  James 2:10 reminds us that we are all guilty of the entire law.  Does that knowledge compel you to the feet of the one who offered himself for your salvation?

In Numbers 6:22-27, God gives Moses the words of the blessing that Aaron was to use when he blessed God’s people.  Pronouncing this blessing was not an afterthought.  In fact, Deut. 10:8 and 21:5 state that the Levites were set apart for this purpose: “to bless in the name of the Lord.”  Do you joyfully receive this blessing from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day?  Do you see yourself as one set apart to bless others?

Sing or pray Psalter 176.

 

June 15 – Offer to the Lord

Read Numbers 7

On the day that Moses finished setting up and consecrating the tabernacle, the princes of the tribes of Israel bring an offering of six covered wagons and twelve oxen.  Moses distributes them among the sons of Gershon and Merari, who had the responsibility for carrying most of the tabernacle, according to their need.  Do you generously support the cause of the gospel ministry in your congregation, mindful of your pastor’s needs?

Did you read all of Numbers 7?  Perhaps not.  After all, what is the point of restating the offering 12 times?  The point is this: God does not weary of our offerings.  Every day we are called to offer to God the same sacrifices of praise: repentance, prayer, growth in the knowledge of God, thanksgiving, doing good, etc.  With those small, repetitive sacrifices, our God is well pleased.

Did you note the place from which God speaks in verse 89?  He no longer speaks with Moses on Mount Sinai, but in the tabernacle “from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims.”

Sing or pray Psalter #267.

 

June 16 – Sprinkled for Service

Read Numbers 8

I knew a godly man who insisted that the sacrament of baptism must be administered by full immersion since baptism symbolizes one’s baptism into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  We are baptized into Christ’s death (see Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12).  But the mode of sprinkling symbolizes that reality, for it pictures the washing away of our sins by the blood that Jesus shed when he died.  This mode of baptism dates back to the sprinkling of Levites with water, which signified their purification from all that was unholy and their consecration to God (Num. 8:7).  Are you among the “many nations” who have been sprinkled with the blood of the Lord’s Servant? (Is. 52:15).  Then you are consecrated to his service: “Forsake the world, crucify [your] old nature, and walk in a new and holy life” (Baptism Form).

The Levites were excused from their more laborious duties when they reached the age of 50, but they were not dismissed from service all together.  Those who were older still brought forth fruit, ministering with their brethren in the tabernacle as those who had oversight.  Can you think of ways in which this principle still applies?

Sing or pray Psalter #109.

 

June 17 – A Clean and Willing Heart

Read Numbers 9

It is the 14th day of the first month, Passover.  Several men approach Moses, deeply troubled.  They are unclean because of a dead body.  (Perhaps they have just buried a loved one.)  Now they must remain outside the camp for one week.  Remember the strict regulations of Passover?  A man was required eat the feast in his house with his family.  These men know that they are unable to keep the feast, but they know the seriousness of failing to observe it as well.  What are they to do?  Moses goes to Jehovah, who makes provision for those who truly desired to worship him.  Those who were providentially unclean or on a distant journey at the time of Passover—and only those—would be permitted to commemorate the feast on 14th day of the second month.

When the Shekinah cloud moved, Israel followed.  When it settled on the tabernacle, they set up camp, sometimes only for a night, sometimes for several months.  They were not to speculate where they might be next but to serve the Lord fully in the present, in the place where he had put them.  At the same time, they were to be ready to follow promptly and eagerly.  Is that your attitude toward your heavenly Father’s providence and the way you follow the leading of his word and Spirit?

Sing or pray Psalter #325.

 

June 18 – At the Trumpet Sound

Read Numbers 10

The second section of Numbers begins in chapter 10.  Israel had camped at Mt. for nearly a year.  What excitement must have filled the camp as the cloud lifted off the tabernacle and led them to the wilderness of Paran!  Moses urges his brother-in-law to accompany them to the promised land.  Do you have family members whom you must urge to join God’s people on the pilgrimage to the heavenly Canaan?

Before they depart, Jehovah instructs Moses regarding the creation and use of two silver trumpets.  The trumpets were to be blown by the priests.  The sounds they made depended on the message.  They were used to summon and to signal the breaking up of the camp.  When the priests blew the trumpets at the threat of war, Jehovah came to their rescue.  The trumpets also marked the beginning of Israel’s feasts and the first day of each month.  Today the trumpet call of the preaching of the gospel still goes forth from the mouths of God’s appointed servants.  Are you among those who gather at that welcome, certain sound, which proclaims the glad tidings of salvation and calls its hearers to prepare for battle? (1 Cor. 14:8)

Sing or pray Psalter #222.

 

June 19 – The Voice of Complaint

Read Numbers 11

The book of Numbers records several instances of Israel complaining. We don’t know what occasioned the murmuring noted in chapter 11:1, but it kindles the fire of God’s wrath.  Astoundingly, God’s judgement doesn’t silence the complaining for long!  Soon the mixed multitude begins whining about their food, and how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  Before long, nearly every man is weeping in the door of his tent.  Many of these complainers God slew while the meat they craved “was yet between their teeth” (v. 33).  But it seems that Moses also complains, doesn’t it?  Moses complaining is different: he brings his legitimate complaint directly to the Lord.  Jehovah regards his cry and lightens his burden.

Do you turn to Jehovah when you are overwhelmed, or are you prone to murmur, in your heart or to others?  We live in the day that Moses’s longed to see: all of Jehovah’s people are prophets, for his Spirit dwells in us!  Therefore, covetousness and foolish talk must not even be named among us, “but rather giving of thanks” (Eph. 5:4).

Sing or pray Psalter #183.

 

June 20 – An Example of Meekness

Read Numbers 12

How painful it must have been for Moses when Miriam and Aaron, his own brother and sister and his closest assistants, spoke against him.  But he does not retaliate.  Indeed, he intercedes on their behalf, proving the statement inserted in verse 3: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”  As meek as Moses was, our Savior was meeker still.  Hebrews 3:1-3 enjoins, “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.  For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.”

Do you respond to those who despitefully use you as Christ Jesus, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”? (1 Pet. 2:22-23).

Sing or pray Psalter #113.

 

June 21 – An Example of Unbelief

Read Numbers 13

God has safely brought his people to the doorway of the promised land, and Moses sends 12 men to search it out.  After 40 days, the spies return with glowing, visible reports of the land’s fruitfulness.  But ten of the spies insist that even though the land’s fruitfulness is great, the giants that inhabit it are greater still.  Indeed, they cannot be conquered, even by the people among whom Jehovah dwells.  The congregation hears this report, and their hearing is not mixed with faith, but unbelief.

Fellow Christian, the fruits of the Spirit are a foretaste of the heavenly rest that awaits us.  Have you tasted love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control in your own life?  Are you encouraged to see those fruits in your fellow saints?  Then believe too that Spirit of Christ within you will strengthen you to fight the giants that you face, even unto death.

Sing or pray Psalter #392.

 

June 22 – A Breach of Promise?

Read Numbers 14

The people respond to the report of the ten unbelieving spies with weeping and murmuring.  This is the tenth time they have murmured, and their cup of iniquity is full.  They will not enter Canaan.  Jehovah declares, “After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise” (v. 34).  Wait.  “Breach of promise”?  Don’t the scriptures teach that “If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.  Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Ps. 89:31-34)?  Yes.  The phrase “breach of promise” is a figure of speech, an anthropomorphism expressing Jehovah’s intense displeasure with his unfaithful people.

Aren’t you thankful that “God is not a man, that he should lie”? (Num. 23:19).  In Jesus Christ, all of his promises are “yea” and “amen” (2 Cor. 1:20).  Do you look forward to his glorious rest? (Is. 11:10).

Sing or pray Psalter #241.

 

June 23 – Israel’s Dwelling Place

Read Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is the only psalm with its authorship attributed to Moses.  Even if Moses didn’t pen it following the events recorded in Numbers 14, it’s likely he wrote it while he led the Israelites through the desolate wilderness.  What defined those wearisome years?  Not first strength, followed by labor and sorrow.  No, the line translated in the KJV “yet is their strength labor and sorrow” means this: the very best of this earthly life is characterized by struggle and sadness. The Israelites wandered, mindful that their wandering was God’s judgement for their sins.  The shadow of death hung over them: most of them, Moses included, would perish outside the promised land.

To what comfort did God’s people cling as they wandered through the harsh desert, homeless?  Their dwelling place was the everlasting God.  They belonged to the One who was even before there was a beginning.  When he commanded, their bodies would return to the dust, a just penalty for their sin.  But their God was also a God of mercy.  He would establish the works of their hands and remain forever faithful to them and to their children.  Is that God your eternal home?

Sing or pray Psalter #247.

 

June 24 – Ignorance and Presumption

Read Numbers 15

Jehovah spoke these wonderful words during his people’s weary years of wilderness wandering: “When thou comest into the land” (Num. 15:2).  Though he chastened them, his word remained steadfast.  Next he instructs regarding sins committed in ignorance.  Though unintentionally committed, sins of ignorance still required atonement and forgiveness.  Ignorance is never an excuse for breaking God’s law.  There was no forgiveness for those who despised God’s word and sinned presumptuously, however.  How fearful!  Let’s join the psalmist in this prayer, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.  Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” (Ps. 19:12-13)

Jehovah also command his people to add fringes and a blue ribbon or tassel to the edges of their garments.  This detail would distinguish them as his peculiar people, but more importantly, it would remind them to follow God’s commandments from the heart with every step they took.  Our Lord Jesus observed this law (Matt. 9:20).  So did the Pharisees, but they did so to be seen of men (Matt. 23:5).  The borders of their garments were enlarged, but inwardly they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  Does your obedience come from the heart?

Sing or pray Psalter #40.

 

June 25 – One Mediator

Read Numbers 16

Korah, a Levite from the family of Kohath, and two Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, along with 250 well-known leaders of the congregation of Israel, rebel against God’s appointed mediators, Moses and Aaron.  Jude warns the New Testament church of false teachers who likewise creep in “unawares” and “despise dominion.”  Like Korah, those men will experience God’s just judgement.  Does God make an exception in this chapter to the rule that children must not be put to death for the sins of their fathers?  (Deut. 24:16).  No, all the men who appertain unto Korah are swallowed up, but the “the children of Korah died not” (Num. 26:11).  (In fact, the sons of Korah became worship leaders to whom several psalms are dedicated.)

By nature we also despise authority, and we’re quick to excuse our sins and approach God on the basis of our own works rather than through the divinely-appointed Mediator.  We take too much upon us.  “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).  Do you come unto the Father by him?

Sing or pray Psalter #368.

 

June 26 – The Fruit-Bearing Rod

Read Numbers 17

Following Korah’s rebellion, God works a wonder that puts to silence all who would gainsay Aaron’s priesthood.  At Jehovah’s command, Moses places twelve rods, one rod from each chief of the twelve tribes, before the ark.  Aaron’s rod blossoms and brings forth almonds.  The children of Israel now recognize Korah’s error.  Whoever would approach God apart from his appointed mediator would perish.  They cry, “Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the Lord  shall die” (v 13).  Likewise, we will be consumed by Jehovah’s holiness unless we approach him through the One who was called of God to be a priest forever.  It is as he declared: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 6:14).

The salvation obtained for us by our eternal High Priest works a wonder pictured in us like the wonder of Aaron’s dead rod blossoming and bearing fruit.  We who were dead in sins have been ingrafted into the vine and now live and bear abundant fruit.  Are the fruits of his Holy Spirit manifest in your life?

Sing or pray Psalter #303.

 

June 27 – A Covenant of Salt

Read Numbers 18

The Levites were given no inheritance in the land of Canaan, but Jehovah ensured their provision: the tithes of the children of Israel belonged to them.  “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute forever: it is a covenant of salt forever…” (v. 19).  As Lev. 2:13 teaches, every offering the Israelites made was to be salted.  “It was the one symbol that was never absent from the altar of burnt-offering, showing the imperishableness of the love of [Jehovah] for his people. In its unalterable nature, it is the contrary of leaven” (Barnes).  Salt not only preserves, it adds savor.  Ezra 7:20-22 implies that the offerors did not bring their own salt; it was provided at the tabernacle.  Calvin comments, “The true seasoning which gives grace to sacrifices is found nowhere except in God’s word. Hence it follows that all modes of worship fabricated by men are rejected as unsavory.”

Have you been purified and refined with the salt of the gospel that you might present yourself a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God?  (See Mark. 9:49 and Rom. 12:1)

Sing or pray Psalter #111.

 

June 28 – Purge Me With Hyssop

Read Numbers 19

In Lev. 14 hyssop is used to cleanse a person who had been infected with leprosy.  In Num. 19 hyssop is used to cleanse those who were unclean because they had come into contact with a dead body.  The hyssop was dipped in water and the ashes of the red heifer that had been burnt without the camp. Our Lord Jesus, “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood” also “suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12).  The unclean person was then sprinkled with the hyssop.

In familiar Psalm 51, David alludes to these ritual cleansings when he prays, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (v. 7a).  David knew that no outward rite would cleanse his heart as God desired.  He had just declared, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (v. 6a).  But he prayed “that God would effectually accomplish, in his experience, what he had signified to his Church and people by these outward rites” (Calvin).  Is that your prayer, too?

Sing or pray Psalter #140.

 

June 29 – Meribah and the Mediator

Read Numbers 20

We’ve read of place called Meribah in Ex. 17.  We encounter a second Meribah in Num. 20.  Again the children of Israel chide and tempt Jehovah because there is no water.  This is not the same group of people, however.  Verse 1 notes that it is the first month; that is, it is the first month of the fortieth year from the Exodus.  These are the children whose parents have now all fallen in the wilderness because of their unbelief.  Now their children repeat their sin.  What a humbling lesson for us, fellow parents!  Let’s earnestly pray for the strength we need to forsake our sins, giving our children an honest example of what it means to live the Christian life.  Let’s humbly confess our sins to our children.  And let’s be careful to guard against the sin for which Moses forfeited entrance into Canaan, rash speaking that flowed out of an angry and bitter heart.

Like every other type of Christ, Moses was not a perfect Mediator.  But our perfect Mediator, Jesus Christ, “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Heb. 7:25).

Sing or pray from Psalter #213.

 

June 30 – Again?!

Read Numbers 21

It’s discouraging to read yet again of the Israelites complaining.  But let’s consider for a moment the nature of their sins.  1) They accused God of seeking their destruction, not their welfare.  2) They were discontent with and unthankful for God’s provision.  How often you and I commit the same sins!  Do we believe (and live as though we believe) that God works all things, from the smallest inconveniences to the greatest heartaches in our lives, for our good?   And what is our attitude toward his provision?  Are we content with the homes, possessions, bodies, and talents that he’s given us?  Compared to those who wandered homeless in the desert and ate the same food at every meal for forty years, we have little reason to complain!

Can a serpent represent Christ?  Yes, as Jesus himself testified in John 3:14. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3).  He was made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). It was not enough that the bronze serpent was lifted up on the pole: only those who looked upon it by faith would be healed.  Likewise with the Savior.  Only those with faith in him will not perish.

Sing or pray Psalter #203.

 

July 1 – Balaam (1)

Read Numbers 22

The inspired apostle Peter describes Balaam as one “who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:15).  Balaam was fickle and greedy (see Jude 11).  His favor could be bought with money.  In contrast to Balaam, our God is unchanging and his favor is without price.  Those whom he loves he loves everlastingly.  He is also sovereign, and, as Numbers 22 demonstrates, he can and will employ kings and even the brute creation to bless his elect and justly condemn the wicked.  His eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9), and he defends them from danger even when they are oblivious of its threat.

Balaam prostrated himself in the dirt before the angel of the Lord.  His bowing was not compelled by reverent worship but by terror.  True reverence always incites obedience.  Balaam acknowledged his sin, but persisted in his way even though Jehovah had made his displeasure abundantly clear (v. 34).  Do you in pride persist in a way that you know is displeasing to him?

Sing or pray Psalter #322.

 

July 2 –  Balaam (2)

Read Numbers 23

Whenever our children have considered the story of Balaam for the first time, they’ve inevitably asked, “Did Balaam love God?”  Balaam has a form of godliness, but he denies the power thereof.  He puts on a show of religion, but his religion never penetrates to his heart, influencing his life or restraining his sinful passions.  You profess Christianity.  Is your religion more than outward show?  Do you know others whose Christianity doesn’t influence their life or restrain their sinful passions?  With regard to acquaintances like that, we’re commanded, “From such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5).

Balaam not only lacked true faith: he lacked also the assurance that attends true faith with regard to death and the judgement.  He cried, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (v. 10).  It is as Prov. 14:32 teaches, “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.”  Do you face death with hope?  “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

Sing or pray Psalter #99.

 

July 3 – Balaam (3)

Read Numbers 24

Balaam abandons his sorceries in Numbers 24. “Under the forced influence of God’s Spirit,” he pronounces further blessing on Israel (Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible).  He acknowledges God’s blessing on Israel’s past, present and future.  In the past, “God brought him forth out of Egypt” (v. 8a).  Presently, Israel “hath as it were the strength of an unicorn” (v. 8b).  In the future, Israel “shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows” (v. 8c).  Balaam also beautifully foretells the coming of Christ, the one on whom God’s favor toward Israel depended.  Do you thank God for his care for you in the past, rely on him to give you grace sufficient for today, and trust him with your future?

Balak thought to promote Balaam “unto great honor,” but the Lord prevented him.  In loving the praise of men more than the praise of God, Balaam forfeited both.   “Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith…them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30). Do you covet the praise of men or the praise of God?

Sing or pray Psalter #247.

 

July 4 – Neither Let Us

Read Numbers 25

Other than the fact that those who entice the Israelites to fornication and idolatry are people from Moab (and Midian, Moab’s close ally), the events of Numbers 25 don’t seem to be directly related to the story of Balaam.  But in Num. 31:6 Moses notes, “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord” (v. 16).  Balaam couldn’t curse Israel.  Instead, he shrewdly advised Balak to tempt Israel to break the law of God, so that they would fall out of his favor for a time and experience his judgement for their sins.

Calvin comments: “From this narrative we learn assuredly that the people were no more able to bear prosperity than adversity…now, when they have entered a habitable land…they are incited by their more comfortable dwelling-places, and more pleasant mode of life, to lasciviousness, and the indulgence of filthy lusts.”  How well do you bear prosperity?  For “these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted…Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand” (1 Cor. 10:6 and 8).

Sing or pray Psalter #31.

 

July 5 – The Second Census

Read Numbers 26

At God’s command, Moses numbers the people for a second time.  The reason for this numbering concerned the division of the soon-to-be inherited land of Canaan.  Generally speaking, the land would be portioned according to the size of each tribe.  “To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance” (v. 54).

The chapter ends on a sobering note.  Among all whom Moses numbered, there was not one who had been numbered at the first census, save Caleb and Joshua.  It had taken nearly 40 years, but Jehovah’s just sentence on Israel’s unbelief had come to pass: God will have his justice satisfied.  That’s true regarding our sins as well.  Knowing that, let’s go to the cross of Christ Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption”(1 Cor. 1:30).

Sing or pray Psalter #121.

 

July 6 – A Godly Request and a Spirit-Filled Successor

Read Numbers 27

The daughters of Zelophehad approach Moses, Eleazar, and the princes of the congregation before the people and request that they be given the inheritance that would have been their father’s.  Their father had died and they had no brother, yet they desired a name and a place in the land of promise, which typified heaven. “The modest, candid manner in which they asked, without secret murmurs or discontents, are a good example” (Matthew Henry).  When you have a grievance that you would like addressed, do you bring it before the elders of the church as Zelophehad’s daughters did, or do you sow discord by murmuring and grumbling about it among the congregation?  Moses’s response is also instructive.  He’s not certain how to answer these women, so he goes to God.  Do you go to God’s word for instruction regarding difficult decisions that you must make?

Moses’s time to die has come.  He has one concern: who will now lead Israel?  God appoints Joshua, noting only one qualification that Joshua possessed: the Holy Spirit dwelled in him (v. 18).  Is that the qualification you esteem above all others in your leaders?

Sing or pray Psalter #159.

 

July 7 – Offer to the Lord

Read Numbers 28

Jehovah against instructs his people regarding the daily burnt offering: one lamb was offered every morning and one every evening.  Do you come before God with a sacrifice of praise at the beginning and end of each day?  On Sabbath days the offerings were doubled.  Matthew Henry notes, “The sabbath rest is to be observed, in order more closely to apply ourselves to the sabbath work, which ought to fill up the sabbath time.”  Do you apply yourself to the worship and work of the Lord on his day, or is it a day you spend doing your ways, finding your own pleasure, and speaking your own words? (see Is. 58:13).  The chapter also details the offerings made at the beginning of each month, the Passover offerings, and the offerings made during the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was crucified on Passover.  He rose, the first fruits of them that slept, at the time of the offering of first fruits (the third day after Passover).  And he poured out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which marked the beginning of the great harvest of souls that will continue until the day he returns.

Sing or pray Psalter #195.

Exodus 5–35

 

April 7 – Two Lessons

Read Exodus 5

The moment of truth has arrived.  Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh with Jehovah’s command, “Let my people go.”  They a ramification to their request: “lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword” (v. 3c).  Calvin suggests that “the threatening, which they added, admonishes Pharaoh that his rebellion would not be unpunished…for if [God] would take vengeance on the people which was retained against their will, how could he escape with impunity, who professedly entered into contention with God?”  Defiant Pharaoh only increases the Israelites’ burden.  They blame Moses and Aaron for their trouble, and Moses cries to the Lord in dismay.  Moses has a lesson to learn: the way of obedience is not an easy path to earthly happiness or success.  Has Jehovah taught you that lesson?

There is second lesson in this passage.  Israel’s bondage in Egypt typifies our bondage to sin.  Sometimes, when God’s word confronts us in our sinfulness, our misery seems only more unbearable and inescapable than it did before.  In that way Jehovah teaches us that “only a divine Savior” will be able to rescue us (Reformation Heritage Study Bible).  Is that the sort of mediator and deliverer you seek?

Sing or pray Psalter #290:1–7.

 

April 8 – “I Will Redeem You”

Read Exodus 6

Jehovah reiterates his covenant promises in Exodus 6:1–8.  Moses brings that word of God to the children of Israel, but they are “not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6).  And so “they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.”  Some like them remain in the church today.  Like stony soil receiving seed, they hear God’s word with gladness, but “when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).

Jehovah also reaffirms Moses’ appointment as his representative in this chapter.  As at the burning bush, Moses attempts to evade his calling (vv. 12 and 30).  Moses recognized that he was unfit for his commission, and he was right.  Verses 14–27 trace the genealogy of the three sons whom Jacob rebuked on his deathbed (Gen 49:3–7) and end with “that Moses and Aaron” (v. 26).  The “base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen…that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:28–29).  Jehovah used weakest means to fulfill his will, for he alone would redeem (“redeem” is used for the first time in Exodus 6:6) his people with a strong hand and outstretched arm.

Sing or pray Psalter #211.

 

April 9 – A Two-Fold Purpose and the First Plague

Read Exodus 7

In Exodus 7:3a Jehovah echoes his words from Exodus 4:21: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.”  Yet throughout the following chapters we will also read that Pharaoh hardens his own heart.  Thus the inexplicable reality of God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability.  “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1),” but “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13b).  God is not the author of evil, but why does he permit it?  He has a two-fold purpose.  First, he desires the salvation of his people.  Secondly, he wills that even “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (v. 5a).

Then Jehovah through Moses sends the first of the ten plagues, which come in three cycles of three, followed by the final plague.  In the morning Moses awaits Pharaoh at the river’s brink, and before Pharaoh’s eyes Moses turns his idol god, the life-giving water of the Nile River, into blood.  Now the riverbed that was the grave of so many Israelite baby boys literally ran with blood.

Sing or pray Psalter #308.

 

April 10 – An Amphibian Army

Read Exodus 8

In the third plague, unannounced flocks of lice, Jehovah again chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.  Previously Pharaoh’s wise men had been able to imitate the wonders worked through Moses and Aaron, although they had not been able to save from God’s judgements.  Then God sends swarms of flies.  From this fourth plague on he clearly divides between his enemies and his redeemed: there are no flies in the land of Goshen.  But first Exodus 8 recounts the second plague.

A group of sheep is a flock; wolves live in packs.  Do you know which collective noun refers to a group of frogs?  A group of frogs is called an army.  God deploys an army of frogs in the second plague.  The Egyptian goddess of fertility was symbolized by a frog.  Suddenly frogs overrun homes, beds, and ovens.  When Moses intercedes, God removes his amphibian army.  (None could argue that the frogs appeared and “croaked” due to environmental causes, for the frogs living in their natural habitat along the river didn’t die.)  Then Egypt reeked of rotting flesh.

What idols are you prone to worship?  Can you think of a time when Jehovah made you loathe what you formerly thought ensured your happiness?

Sing or pray Psalter #213:1–4.

 

April 11 – Jehovah’s Power Displayed

Read Exodus 9

In plagues five and six God exposes two more of the Egyptian’s gods as helpless idols.  Their god represented by a bull or cow couldn’t spare their herds from his “grievous murrain.”  Their goddess of war and healing was unable to save her worshippers from the boils that covered them from head to foot, inflaming their legs and knees so that they were unable to stand (Deut. 28:27, 35).  But the most grievous plague noted in Exodus 9 was invisible to the human eye.  That plague was Jehovah’s hardening of the hearts of Pharaoh, his servants, and many of his people.  But even among the Egyptians some feared the word of the Lord.  Those who by grace resorted to the shelter of the Most High were spared his fury just as their livestock were spared the deadly hail of the seventh plague.

That inward plague accomplished a two-fold purpose.  It not only hardened those so appointed to their destruction: it also demonstrated God’s power.  To those who take counsel against the Lord and his anointed comes the declaration originally made to Pharaoh: “For this cause have I raised thee up…that my named may be declared throughout all the earth” (v. 16).

Sing or pray Psalter #253.

 

April 12 – Tell Your Son

Read Exodus 10

Among the people to whom Jehovah’s glory must be declared were the little children of Israel, those already born and those yet to be born.  In Exodus 10:1–2 Jehovah declares, “I have hardened [Pharaoh’s] heart, and the heart of his servants…that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them.”  Again he commands his people to instruct their children regarding their great deliverance in Exodus 12:26–27 and Exodus 13:8, 14–16.

Do you diligently teach your children of the great salvation that God has wrought when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up?  Do you make time to answer their questions?  (In Exodus 12:26–27 and Exodus 13:14–18 the instruction of the children takes place in response to their questions.)  Do not hide from them the glorious deeds of the Lord, his might, and the wonders that he has done. “So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:8).

Sing or pray Psalter #212.

 

April 13 – From Rags to Riches

Read Exodus 11

In the final verse of Exodus 10, Pharaoh commands Moses to leave and see his face no more.  Moses agrees, but before he departs in great anger, he announces the tenth and final plague.  He also foretells the haste in which the children of Israel would suddenly depart: they would be thrust out, and as they went the Egyptians would lade them with silver, gold, and costly apparel.  The people who had been slaves would shortly be decked with jewels.  What a beautiful picture of Christ’s church, the bride brought out of bondage and adorned with all the riches of salvation.

At the burning bush, Jehovah foretold that his people would spoil the Egyptians.  He gave this command concerning the jewels and clothing that would so suddenly be theirs: “Ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters” (Ex. 3:22).  What a beautiful picture that salvation belongs not only to believers but to their children also.

Sing or pray Psalter #124:1,2, and 9.

 

April 14 – The Home-born and the Stranger

Read Exodus 12

In Exodus 12 Jehovah smites all the firstborn of Egypt, and the Israelites triumphantly depart.  The chapter also contains further instruction regarding the celebration of Passover.  All the congregation of Israel were to keep the feast, including the slaves.  No uncircumcised foreigner could partake, but if a foreigner desired to join the celebration of Israel’s deliverance, he was permitted to do so once he and all the males in his household were circumcised.  The feast was to be eaten within one’s home: no food could be carried out the door.

Those rules are not unnecessarily strict.  Rather, each pictures a glorious aspect of our salvation.  In Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free” (Gal. 3:28).  In him we “are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands” (Col. 2:11).  He is the door.  All who enter through him “shall be saved” (John 10:9), never again to hunger or thirst, for his “house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (Is. 56:7).

Sing or pray Psalter #199.

 

April 15 – The Firstborn Redeemer

Read Exodus 13

In Numbers 3:13 Jehovah declares, “On the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast.”  Those firstborn were representative of the entire nation of Israel, whom Jehovah calls his firstborn in Exodus 4:22.  He set them apart as his peculiar and holy treasure (Ex. 19:5–6).  In Exodus 13 he gives Moses instruction regarding the redemption of the firstborn.  Firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to him, and firstborn children were to be redeemed by a sacrificed animal.

Again, all these Old Testament laws were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Our Savior is the firstborn of every creature (Col. 1:15), the firstborn of Mary (Luke 2:7), the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18), and the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).  Those many brethren are the true “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), who comprise “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:23).  “These were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).

Sing or pray Psalter #243:1–5.

 

April 16 – A God-Directed Path

Read Exodus 14

The Lord himself led the Israelites out of Egypt and toward the promised land.  The pillar of cloud and fire did not guide them along the most direct route to Canaan, however.  Instead of journeying north and east, the Israelites traveled south.  Soon Pharaoh and his army pursued them, and the terrified Hebrews were hemmed in by the Red Sea and the wilderness mountains.  But Jehovah’s thoughts toward them were thoughts of peace, and not of evil (Jer. 29:11).  The very circumstance they thought would result in their destruction was the means by which he saved them and destroyed their enemies.  Even the Egyptians acknowledged that Jehovah fought for his people (v. 25).  All Israel had to do was hold their peace (v. 14).

Jehovah stills leads his people in ways that don’t seem good.  You might wonder, “Why this vocation, Lord?” or “Why this trial?”  No doubt many Israelites wondered why they had to march between walls of water in the dead of night.  But they did so by faith (Heb. 11:29).  Likewise, we walk faith and not by sight, trusting that just as the angel of God went before and behind the Israelites, so he surrounds us today, lighting our path with his word.

Sing or pray Psalter #292.

 

April 17 – A Song of Celebration

Read Exodus 15

Moses and Miriam lead the children of Israel in celebrating the Lord’s victory over his enemies in Exodus 15. They celebrate in song.

Throughout the scriptures, but especially in the Psalms, God’s people are commanded to sing to him.  Our songs to God are prayers, and yet, as prayers that are sung they express and evoke emotion more powerfully than prayers that are spoken.  The song of the children of Israel was a song of triumphant praise.  It was sung by all of the congregation, each member of the body lifting up the same words of praise at the same time.  It was sung with understanding.  The verse just before the song begins notes, “And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses” (14:31).

Do you sing praises to our God with understanding (Ps. 47:7)?  Do you sing his praises with your family members?  Do you sing with your whole heart in the congregation of which you are a member (Ps. 111:1)?

Sing or pray Psalter #418.

 

April 18 – An Omer of Manna

Read Exodus 16

In Exodus 16 Jehovah provides his people with bread from heaven.  “Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full” (Ps. 78:25).  Each person is allotted a portion of one omer, which was to be gathered daily, except on the sixth day, when enough manna was to be gathered for the Sabbath day as well.  God also commanded that an omer of manna be kept “for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt” (v. 32).

Has God been faithful to provide you with the necessary physical and spiritual bread that you need each day?  Do you take time to reflect on his provision for you in the past?  Do you encourage your fellow saints, family members, and children with examples of his faithfulness from your life?  May our experiences be like so many omers of manna that nourish the faith of others.

Sing or pray Psalter #292.

 

April 19 – Time and Again

Read Exodus 17

Though the Israelites prove themselves time and again to be an unbelieving, undeserving people, Jehovah proves himself time and again to be a faithful, forgiving God.   He gives them water from the rock, which Moses smites with the rod previously used to execute judgement. “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” declares 1 Corinthians 10:6, and 1 Corinthians 10:4 teaches that the Rock from which the Israelites drank was Christ.  Have you tasted that living water?

Exodus 12:51 declares that Jehovah brought “the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.”  The people freed from bondage immediately faced the threat of war.  In Exodus 17 that threat becomes a reality, and the Israelites win the victory thanks to Moses’s outstretched arms.  Moses was a weak mediator, but he pointed to the One who all alone stretched out his arms on the cross.  Still today he intercedes on behalf of his people with lifted up hands before our Father’s throne.  We’ve been freed from sin’s bondage to fight the fight of faith.  But never fear: nothing can separate us from our Mediator’s love (Rom. 8:35).

Sing or pray Psalter #92:1-3.

 

April 20 – Delegate

Read Exodus 18

In Exodus 18 Moses heeds the wise advice of his father-in-law and delegates some of the burden of leadership to other “able men.”  There is practical (and spiritual) application here for all.  Pastors, businessmen, builders, teachers, mothers in the home, students assigned to a group project: in light of Exodus 18, consider the following insights on delegating:

“…God has not given us all the time we need to accomplish what we have to do…This…reveals a faulty paradigm, one that views productivity as primarily an individual matter.  God hasn’t given us all the time we need because he wants us to rely on other people as well as our own resources and gifts…God designed the world so that there will always be more things for us to do than we are able to do.  That isn’t just so we learn to prioritize; it’s so that we learn to depend on one another.  And that’s what delegation enables us to do…delegation is the single most important way to free up time.  Enlisting others is essential because, when done well, delegation builds others up and deepens existing relationships” (Perman, What’s Best Next).

Sing or pray Psalter #350.

 

April 21 – A Consuming Fire

Read Exodus 19

Last summer our family attended a USAF Thunderbirds air show.  We arrived early, and then waited, and waited, and waited for the airshow to begin.  Suddenly, four F-16s roared overhead in formation.  The ground shook beneath the deafening rumble of the engines, and our two-year-old clung to me, sobbing with fright.  When Jehovah God descended on Mount Sinai, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed, and the entire mountain shook.  The people exceedingly feared and also quaked, in part at the terrible sight and in part at the deafening noise, but also because they understood the source of this tremendous display of power: the holy God of heaven and earth was coming down.

The same thrice-holy God condescends to commune with us.  Do you serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear?  “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29).

Sing or pray Psalter #259.

 

April 22 – The Perfect Law of God

Read Exodus 20

Before he reads God’s law during the Sunday morning worship service, our pastor often reminds us that that law comes to God’s people in the context of its introduction: “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”  We are God’s redeemed people, purchased by the blood of the Lamb.  We are not married to the law: we are married to Christ.  The law cannot condemn us; instead, it serves us as the rule for our life of gratitude.  It’s a law that’s written in the hearts of God’s people by the Spirit of Christ: “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ez. 36:27; see also Jer. 31:33).

Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do you keep his commandments?  Do you rejoice in the way of his testimonies as much as in all riches? (Ps. 119:14).  Is your earnest prayer “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law”? (Ps. 119:18).  Thereby you know that you love him (1 John 2:3).

Sing or pray Psalter #322.

 

April 23 – The Civil Law Begins

Read Exodus 21

Exodus 20 contains the Ten Commandments, God’s moral law, which shall not pass away.  Exodus 21 contains the first of many civil (or judicial) and ceremonial laws that are no longer binding on us New Testament saints but still set forth abiding moral principles.  Jehovah safeguarded slaves, women, and the unborn.  He distinguished between the willful and accidental taking of human life, highlighted the seriousness of the obligation to honor one’s parents, maintained that the punishment must fit the crime, and held people accountable for damage caused by their livestock and property.

A brief survey of American society will reveal how many of our neighbors despise God’s moral standards.  What would a survey of your life reveal?

Sing or pray Psalter #42.

 

April 24 – A Judge of Widows

Read Exodus 22

God sets forth additional moral principles in Exodus 22.  The first 15 verses contain commands regarding the Israelites’ possessions, specific applications of the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”  Still today “God forbids not only those thefts and robberies which are punishable by the magistrate” but “all wicked tricks and devices whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the good which belong to our neighbor,” and also all covetousness and abuse or waste of his gifts (HC, Q &A 110).

The chapter also contains a number of laws that prohibit social injustice.  Verse 24 reminds us that even if we commit injustices not punishable by the magistrate, vengeance belongs to Jehovah, who “executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed” (Ps. 103:6). “The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down” (Ps. 146:9).

Sing or pray Psalter #179.

 

April 25 – Don’t Follow the Crowd

Read Exodus 23

The civil laws in Exodus 23 set forth principles regarding truth, justice, bribery, and rest.  The second verse declares, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice” (NKJV).

In the fourth century AD there lived a bishop who understood the principle of Exodus 23:2. His name was Athanasius, and he served as a bishop in Alexandria, Egypt, for over four decades.  During his ministry, a multitude of Christians and Christian church leaders followed a heretic named Arius.  Arius denied the deity of our Savior Jesus Christ and consequently the Trinity.  His false teaching became so popular that Athanasius faced vigorous persecution and was even exiled from Alexandria five different times.  Once a close friend of Athanasius observed, “Athanasius, the whole world is against you!”  Athanasius answered, “Then it is Athanasius against the world.”

Athanasius didn’t stand alone, though, did he?  He was strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might (Eph. 6:10).   “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13).

Sing or pray Psalter #326.

 

April 26 – Sprinkled with the Blood

Read Exodus 24

Twice in Exodus 24 the children of Israel assert, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (v. 7).  But Jehovah did not make his covenant with them on the basis of their obedience, but on the basis of the blood shed for them.  So “Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.”

Then Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascend the mountain and see God.  “And there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness” (v. 10).  Matthew Henry notes, “The believer sees in the face of Jesus Christ, far clearer discoveries of the glorious justice and holiness of God, than ever he saw under terrifying convictions; and through the Savior, holds communion with a holy God” (Matthew Henry). Has he shined the light of the knowledge of his glory in your heart? (2 Cor. 4:6)

Sing or pray Psalter #231.

 

April 27 – According to the Pattern

Read Exodus 25

God now gives the pattern of the tabernacle to Moses, and that in great detail.  In verses 9 and 40 he emphasizes the importance of building the tabernacle according to that pattern.  None of its details were arbitrarily appointed, for, as Heb. 8:5 teaches, they served “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.”  The tabernacle, its furniture, and its rituals all pointed to Christ.  Yet Calvin warns, “There is, however, no reason that we should be here overcurious, so as to seek in every nail and minute things some sublime mystery…we ought therefore to exercise moderation in this respect, which we shall do if we seek only to know what has been revealed to us respecting Christ.”

Even in the New Testament, we worship God only as he has commanded in his word.  That is the regulative principle of our worship and the essence of the second commandment, as Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 96 states: “What doth God require in the second commandment?  That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word.”

Sing or pray Psalter #256.

 

April 28 – God With Us

Read Exodus 26

Before the fall, God communed with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  There man was nourished by the tree of life, and the rivers that flowed out of the garden encompassed lands where there was gold.  When Adam and Eve fell into sin, God banished them from Eden, “and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24).  Now God gives the template for the tabernacle, in which he will dwell among his people, and this new dwelling place is reminiscent of his former dwelling place.  The candlestick, with its branches and flowers, is like a tree.  The tabernacle gleams with gold.  And cherubim guard the Holy of Holies.

The tabernacle doesn’t point back to Eden, however.  Its points forward to Jesus Christ, Immanuel, “the mediator of a better covenant” who dwells in the hearts of his people (Heb. 8:6).  It finds its ultimate fulfillment in the paradise of God, which, in the symbolic language of Revelation, includes streets paved with gold and in its center the tree of life.

Sing or pray Psalter #134.

 

April 29 – Past the Altar

Read Exodus 27

When God’s people entered the court of the tabernacle, they first encountered the altar of burnt offering.  Only through the sacrifices offered on the altar could they enter the presence of the holy God.  The blood shed on the altar could not take away sins, but, like everything else in the tabernacle, it pointed to our Lord Jesus Christ, who “now once in the end of the world hath…appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).  Only through his shed blood do we “have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:2).

Within the Holy Place stood the lamp, which evoked a tree or a vine with branches.  The priests tended the lamp morning and evening so that its light never went out.  In John 15:5 Jesus declares, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.”  Does your light so shine before men? (Matt. 5:16).  And do you look forward to the new heaven and earth, in which God’s people will “need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light”? (Rev. 22:5).

Sing or pray Psalter #318.

 

April 30 – Our Better High Priest

Read Exodus 28

Jehovah chose Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel to serve him as priests.  Artisans filled with Holy Spirit made the garments that set apart Aaron and his sons for service and covered their nakedness, garments “for glory and for beauty.”  But Aaron and his sons were sinful, mortal men.  Their priesthood would be replaced by the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom God swore an oath of which he will not repent, “Thou are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4). “This man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb 7:24).

Our sinless high priest hung naked on the cross, bearing our iniquity.  Upon him, our representative, came the wrath of God, and for our life he died.  His glory and beauty inspires awe and reverence (Rev. 1:17).  The names of his people are not engraved on a breastplate that he must wear, but in his very flesh (Is. 49:16).  And before God’s throne of judgement he ever lives to make continual intercessions for his people (Rom. 8:34). “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Heb. 7:25).

Sing or pray Psalter #47.

 

May 1 – A Holy Priesthood

Read Exodus 29

Exodus 29 records God’s instructions for the week-long inauguration of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood.  Aaron and his sons were washed, clothed with the holy garments, and anointed with oil.  Then Moses offered an offering for their sins.  The second offering, a ram wholly burnt, pointed to the priests’ total consecration to God.  The blood of the third sacrifice, a peace offering, was put on the right ears, hands, and toes of Aaron and his sons, symbolizing that they were sanctified from head to toe for God’s service.  Some of the flesh of this sacrifice was given to Moses and Aaron and his sons to eat.  All of this was necessary because God brought his people out of bondage in order that he might dwell among them (v. 46).

We’ve also been brought out of bondage to sin and into fellowship with God.  Our high priest gave his body to the cross and shed his blood for us.  He nourishes our souls with his crucified body and shed blood to everlasting life.  As members of his body, we share in his anointing, and we’re called to daily present ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to him (Rom. 12:1).

Sing or pray Psalter #368.

 

May 2 – Prayer like Incense

Read Exodus 30

Exodus 30 begins with a description of the altar of incense and ends with the recipe for the incense itself.  This sweet-smelling perfume was to be burned twice each day, in the morning and in the evening.  The burning incense pictured the prayers of God’s people ascending up to heaven.  Luke 1:10 suggests that it was customary for those in the outer court to pray even as the priest entered the holy place with the incense.  It was a great and rare privilege for a priest to execute “the priest’s office before God in the order of his course” (Luke 1:8).  We have the privilege – even the command – to offer our prayers to God without ceasing.  “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6).

In Exodus 30:12-16 God instructs Moses concerning atonement money that was to be collected: one half shekel for each person 20 years old and older.  The rich were not to give more, nor the poor, less.  Our God is no respecter of persons: “the souls of all are of equal value, equally in danger, and all equally need a ransom” (Matthew Henry).

Sing or pray Psalter #311.

 

May 3 – Called and Equipped

Read Exodus 31

God had given Moses detailed, extensive instructions regarding the building of the tabernacle, its furnishings, the priestly garments, and the preparation of the anointing oil and the incense.  But he also called and equipped the artificers who would skillfully follow his design.  Still today, “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7).  These gifts are given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).  You or I may be tempted to despise the gifts God has given us as insignificant, but we must be faithful to employ the gifts that God has given us (See Matt. 25:14–30).  He calls us to serve our fellow saints, and he equips us to that end.

Do the members of Christ’s church benefit from the distribution and exercise of the gifts that God has given you?

Sing or pray Psalter #383.

 

May 4 – The Golden Calf

Read Exodus 32

Though God had manifest himself to Israel, so that they were without excuse, they “became vain in their imaginations and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to [a] four-footed [beast]” (Rom. 1:19–23).  How quickly they forgot their vow to worship Jehovah “according to the pattern”!  They traded the riches of their salvation to serve the work of men’s hands, determining that they would represent Jehovah with a golden calf, mimicking the one of the Egyptians’ idols.  Instead of worshipping the living God in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness as his image bearers, they became like the dumb, blind, deaf, and dead image that they made (Ps. 135:16–18).

As we considered several days ago, God requires “that we in no wise…worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word” (HC, Q&A 96).  “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  Is that the way in which you worship him, or are you content with an outward show?

Sing or pray Psalter #222.

 

May 5 – The Meek Mediator

Read Exodus 33

Deuteronomy 34:10 declares, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”  Yet “the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3).

What is meekness?  “Meekness is a recognition of one’s God-ordained place…It is a sense of proportion” (Elisabeth Elliot).  A meek man doesn’t necessarily think less of himself, he thinks of himself less (C.S. Lewis).  In the words of Romans 12:3, a meek man is one who doesn’t “think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”  Like Moses, a meek man understands that he’s not saved alone, he’s saved as a member of Christ’s body, and he loves God’s people.  In meekness and lowliness of heart, our Lord Jesus Christ far surpasses Moses.  Let his mind be in you, and “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Phil. 2:5, Eph. 4:1–3).

Sing or pray Psalter #109.

 

May 6 – Visiting the Iniquity

Read Exodus 34

When the Lord declares in Exodus 34:6–7 that he “visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” he does not contradict his word in Exodus 32:33, “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book,” or Deut. 24:16, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”  When he says that he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children he means that a man’s (or a woman’s) children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences of his (or her) sin.  In many such situations, the sad consequences of the parent’s sin is that the children run in the wicked way in which their parent walked.  Parents, does that reality compel you to repent and confess your sins to God and to your children?

Though Jehovah visits the sins of those who hate him to the third and fourth generation, he is merciful to a thousand generations of those who love him.  As Jeremiah confessed, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22–23).

Sing or pray Psalter #281.

 

May 7 –  The Willing Offering

Read Exodus 35

In Exodus 35, Moses receives the commanded offering for the tabernacle.  There are several things to notice about this offering.  First, God’s people gave willingly.  Every man gave according as he purposed in his heart, “not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).  Second, it was an offering not only of possessions, but of time and talents as well.  Third, it included the entire congregation, men and women.  Finally, the riches that they gave came from their redemption.  Not long before this, the children of Israel had been destitute slaves.  When Jehovah redeemed them from bondage, they left laden with riches.  Now they give of those riches to God.

You and I have also been laden with riches, riches of salvation, earthly life, many abilities, and plentiful possessions.  We can take no more credit for any of those things than we can the color of our skin.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (1 Cor. 10:26).  We are nothing more than stewards of the things he has entrusted to us.  Do you willingly and thankfully render unto him the things that are his?

Sing or pray Psalter #27.

February 8 – Wisdom Without Price

Read Job 28

Last August our family camped in the Rocky Mountains.  As we drove to a trailhead one afternoon, intending to hike to a nearby waterfall, we passed a gaping hole in the side of a mountain.  Aha!  This must be the gold mine that a camp volunteer had mentioned.  Early in the 20th century, a man had come from the East, wintered in Denver, and spent seven summers digging with a pick and shovel near the base of Sheep Mountain, convinced that God had revealed to him that he would find gold there.  He never found any, but he left a six-foot tall, 100-foot long hole as a testament to his desire to be rich.

Others have struck gold in the Rocky Mountains, but the treasure of wisdom cannot be mined with a pick or shovel.  Nor can it be bought with gold or precious gems.  As Job confesses in Job 28, Jehovah God himself is the source of wisdom, and in his son Jesus Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).  Does his precious word dwell in you richly in all wisdom? (Col. 3:16)

Sing or pray Psalter #40.

 

February 9 – Job’s Personal Testimony

Read Job 29

Job gives his personal testimony in Job 29.  His testimony isn’t a dramatic conversion experience.  It’s a record of God’s work in and through him.  Job’s religion was pure and undefiled: his faith was evidenced by his good deeds.  In verses 12–16 Job proves that Eliphaz had falsely accused him of neglecting the poor, fatherless, and widows (see Job 22:6–9).  Unlike the counsel of his friends, Job’s counsel had been both highly valued and encouraging (29:22–23).  He had enjoyed physical, familial, and spiritual prosperity (vv. 4–6).  His life was not without trials, but he directed his steps in the beam of God’s light even in those dark times.  Does his testimony seem self-righteous or boastful?  God agreed with Job’s self-assessment.  He had declared that Job was “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (2:3).

Is your life consistent with your profession of faith?  Scripture teaches that if we are hearers of the word and not doers of it, we deceive ourselves: faith without works is dead.  Do you see a small beginning of that new obedience in your life?  Praise God for that assurance that your faith is a living faith (see Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 86 and 114).

Sing or pray Psalter #79.

 

February 10 – From Prosperity to Persecution

Read Job 30

In addition to physical, familial, and spiritual wealth, Job had also enjoyed social prosperity.  Even among his elders, he had sat as chief (29:25).  “But now,” he laments, “they that are younger than I have me in derision” (30:1).  Job was no longer respected.  He was ridiculed, even by the lowest members of society.  Those who had been the recipients of his charity rewarded evil for his good.

Jesus taught that his followers would be hated by the world because we are not of the world.  We must be careful, however, not to give God’s enemies an occasion to blaspheme.  Like Job, we must have our “conversation honest among the Gentiles,” “in all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (1 Pet. 2:12 and Titus 2:7-8).  “For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Pet. 2:20).

Sing or pray Psalter #300:1–3.

 

February 11 – Pure in Heart

Read Job 31

Throughout the book of Job, we’ve seen Job on the witness stand, pleading his case before the Judge, appealing God’s justice.  He has defended his godly conduct and implored, “Why do I suffer?”  Job concludes his testimony in this climatic chapter, chapter 31.  What’s striking about this chapter is Job’s emphasis on his heart.  Yes, he was faithful to his wife.  He treated his servants fairly and had mercy upon the fatherless and widow.  But these actions were not an outward show.  They flowed out of a heart that was guarded from covetousness and consecrated to God.  Job understood what the tenth commandment requires of us: “That even the smallest inclination or thought contrary to any of God’s commandments never rise in our hearts; but that all times we hate all sin with our whole heart, and delight in all righteousness” (H.C. Q. & A. 113).

An honest evaluation of my own thoughts and motives compels me to pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).  Do you also desire to be pure in heart?  “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Sing or pray Psalter #141.

 

February 12 – Elihu Vents

Read Job 32

As Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar debated, Job asserting his righteousness and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar accusing him of wrongdoing, a young man named Elihu looked on.  He waited for the other men to finish speaking out of respect, for they were his elders, but now, in chapter 32–37, he voices his opinion.  Elihu is angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God (v. 2).  It seemed to him that Job valued his own reputation more than God’s.  Elihu is frustrated with Job’s three friends as well, for they were unable to refute Job’s defense or convince him of their perspective, but still they condemned him.  Interestingly, God later rebukes Job’s three friends, “for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right” (42:7), but he doesn’t say anything to Elihu.  Elihu’s name means “My God is he.”  And yet, although much of what he says is right, his motivation for speaking is lacking: he speaks that he “may be refreshed” (v. 20).

The next time you’re tempted to vent, pause first and ask yourself, “Will what I want to say minister grace unto its hearers?” (Eph. 4:29).

Sing or pray Psalter #305.

 

February 13 – A Mediator

Read Job 33

Elihu sets himself up as a mediator in Job 33, declaring that he speaks in God’s stead (v. 6).  Job had said that he was afraid of God (9:34, 13:21).  Elihu reassures him, “My terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee” (v. 7).  Like Job’s three friends, Elihu asserts that God is just, but he offers a more sophisticated reason for Job’s suffering.  He suggests that God is not punishing Job but chastising him in order to incite repentance, which would result in restoration.  Unlike Eliaphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, Elihu claims that he isn’t intent on condemning Job: he desires to justify him (v. 32).

Reading Elihu’s speech makes me thankful for our mediator and deliverer, Jesus Christ.  Not only does he sympathize with us in our suffering, he is mighty to save us as well.  He doesn’t only desire to justify us: he justified us once and for all by the sacrifice of himself.  When we walk in unrepentant sin, his word comes to us, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

Sing or pray Psalter #47:1,4,7,10–11.

 

February 14 – Elihu Persists

Read Job 34

Elihu addresses Job less gently as he begins a second speech, challenging some of the statements that Job had made.  He ought to have had more compassion on Job, keeping in mind the anguish of body and soul that had compelled him to cry out as he had, but much of his theology is correct.  He contends that God is righteous, sovereign, and no respecter of persons.  Although he declares that the ways of the Almighty are past finding out, he seems pretty sure that he understands those ways when he declares, “My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end because of his answers for wicked men” (v. 36).  In other words, Elihu doesn’t think that Job has learned whatever lesson(s) God is trying to teach him yet; therefore, he hopes his suffering continues.  As he gathers steam he seems to forget his earlier desire to justify Job.

Watching over this exchange is the Almighty, whose “eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (v.21).  “For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways” (v. 11).

Sing or pray Psalter #162.

 

February 15 – Our Self-Sufficient God

Read Job 35

At the beginning of Job 35, Elihu misrepresents Job: never had Job claimed that he was more righteous than God.  At the end of the chapter, Elihu suggests that God has not dealt with Job after his sins: he deserved even more severe suffering than what he already endured.  Elihu also implies that Job’s prayers are proud and insincere; therefore, God does not answer him.  In the middle of the chapter, however, Elihu accurately highlights an attribute of our heavenly Father.  Our God is self-sufficient, independent.    Rev. Ron Hanko writes about Jehovah’s self-sufficiency in Doctrine According to Godliness: “Nor can anyone give anything to God.  Even when we “give” thanks, praise, and glory to him, we add nothing to his glory.  The salvation of the whole church adds nothing to his glory, but is only a revelation of the glory he already has in himself…”  Nor, as Elihu declared, can our sins hurt God in any way.  (They can certainly harm our neighbor, however, just as our good deeds may benefit him or her.)

What a humbling truth!  Jehovah is everything without us.  We are nothing without him.

Sing or pray Psalter #275.

 

February 16 – Wisdom from the Weak

Read Job 36

Job and his three friends had each made three speeches.  So had Elihu, but he begins yet another discourse in chapter 36 by entreating the patience of his audience: “Suffer me a little,” he says.  “I have yet to speak on God’s behalf.”  Earlier he had shown deference to his elders.  Now he reveals his true opinion of himself, “He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.”  He then makes similarly simplistic claims about God’s justice that Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad had made (vv. 11–14).  What if you were in Job’s position?  Would you be offended by such an arrogant address?  Would you listen to anything else Elihu had to say?  In spite of his pompous claims, some of Elihu’s statements about God are true.

The fact is that every member of Christ’s body is sinful, prone to self-righteousness and conceit.  Nevertheless, we’re called to counsel and to minister to one another.  Do you submit to the instruction and correction of your Christian brothers and sisters, particularly those whom God has placed in authority over you?  Do you bear patiently with their weaknesses and infirmities, or do you consider their sins grounds to disregard any wisdom they impart?

Sing or pray Psalter #51.

 

February 17 – The Sovereign Weather-Worker

Read Job 37

Polite conversation in our culture often begins with an exchange about the weather.  Perhaps that is because the weather is something we all have in common, a force greater than ourselves to which we all are subject.  Maybe this social convention is an unconscious acknowledgment of the God who reigns.  Elihu didn’t begin his speech with observations about the weather.  Instead, he ends that way.  More specifically, he closes by pointing to God, the sovereign weather-worker, who commands the climate according to his counsel.  This passage brings to my mind the final verses of Mark 4, in which the frightened, storm-tossed disciples awaken Jesus, who calms the wind and waves with a word.  What is the disciples’ response?  Not relief, but even greater terror!  “They feared exceedingly” (Mark 4:41).  They knew no mere man was with them in the boat.

Of that Almighty God, Elihu concludes “He is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate” (v. 23 ESV).  Therefore, he calls on Job—and you and me—to bow before him in godly fear.

Sing or pray Psalter #211.

 

February 18 – An Awe-Inspiring Answer

Read Job 38

The wisdom of Job and his three friends has been exhausted.  Now Wisdom himself speaks.  That the Almighty condescends to speak to Job is a gracious wonder.  Though gracious, he is still awe-inspiring, for he answers Job out of a whirlwind, challenging the assertions that have been made about him.  We might expect God to explain why a good man like Job suffers, but he never even broaches the topic.  Instead, he calls Job to consider who he is: the eternal Creator, the omnipresent Sustainer, the one who calls the stars by name and gives every living thing its meat in due season.  That Almighty God, the God of unfathomable power and incomprehensible wisdom, does not need to answer Job’s why.  Nor does he need to answer your why or mine. The knowledge that he is God, the one who is in heavens and does whatsoever he hath pleased, should be enough, must be enough, is enough.

Is the knowledge of who God is enough for you, or do you clamor to know why with regard to the things that befall you in his providence?

Sing or pray Psalter #260.

 

February 19 – “Of Divine Providence”

Read Job 39

God’s questions in Job 39 are rhetorical, his implication obvious: Man is unable to fully understand or completely control God’s creatures.  How then can he claim to comprehend the God who made them?  This chapter is reminiscent of the 13th article of the Belgic Confession: “We believe that the same God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And, as to what he doth surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father…”

Sing or pray Psalter #288.

 

February 20 – Overwhelmed

Read Job 40

God concludes his first speech in the opening verses of Job 40 by demanding a response from Job.  Job repents and then, overwhelmed by how insignificant he is in comparison to the Almighty, refuses to say anything further.  But God goes on to remind Job that not only does he reign over the natural world, he reigns in the kingdoms of men as well.  Not only is he alone able to behold every one who is proud, he also is the one who brings the proud low and treads down the wicked (v. 12).  If you were able to do this, Job, God says, then you could save yourself, too.  God goes on to describe the behemoth, a real creature that was familiar to Job.  People have speculated about the identity of this animal, suggesting that it might be a dinosaur, elephant, or hippopotamus.  Its identification is inconsequential, however.  The point is that while no man dares approach this mighty beast, it, too, belongs to God and was created for his glory.

Are you, like Job, overwhelmed by the Almighty?  Then you will find that your own self and sufferings grow dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Sing or pray Psalter #405.

 

February 21 – Leviathan

Read Job 41

Some people attribute all suffering and sorrow to Satan.  God is good, they reason.  Therefore, Satan must be responsible for the bad things that happen to good people.  But maybe, just maybe, God is able to make something good come out of them.  Sometimes those who think this way point to the book of Job to prove their perspective.  After all, it was Satan who wreaked havoc on Job.  But wait.  Who gave permission to Satan first to touch all that Job had and then to touch his bone and his flesh?  God.  God was sovereign over all Job’s suffering.

What does that have do with Job 41, the chapter in which God describes leviathan?  Like behemoth, leviathan was a real creature.  Yet he was a fierce adversary of men.  He breathed fire, and his heart was like a stone.  No creature was prouder than leviathan.  Leviathan aptly represents Satan, our adversary, who one day will face the judgment of the God who reigns supreme.  “In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea” (Is. 27:1).

Sing or pray Psalter #223.

 

February 22 – The Conclusion of the Matter

Read Job 42

In this final chapter of the book of Job, Job repents “in dust and ashes.” Jehovah rebukes Job’s three friends, not for misinterpreting his word – some of what they had spoken was true – but for misapplying it and using it to accuse Job wrongly.  In turn, they also repent and bring an offering to Job.  Job pictures Christ, offering a sacrifice on behalf of those who had sinned against him.  Then God gives Job a double portion of his previous wealth, restores his relationships, and blesses him with ten more children.  Notice, though: Job repented while he still suffered.  His penitence was not driven by the desire for the restoration of his possessions or position. There are no grounds for a prosperity gospel here!

What is the conclusion of this poetic book?  Job’s friends argued that suffering is a punishment for sin.  In light of God’s justice and his own righteousness, Job contended that his suffering couldn’t be explained.  Elihu maintained that suffering comes as chastisement.  But God taught them—and he teaches you and me—that the suffering of the righteous is a call to trust him, the Almighty, who works all things together for good to them that love him.

Sing or pray Psalter #162.

 

February 23 – …and You Will Be a Blessing

Read Genesis 12

We return in our chronological reading of the scriptures to the book of Genesis.  Genesis 11 records the rebellion of man in building the Tower of Babel and concludes by tracing the descendants of God-fearing Shem to a man named Abraham.  Jehovah had already communicated his covenant to Adam and to Noah.  Now in Genesis 12 he rearticulates his covenant to Abram.  God did not institute many covenants.  Rather, each of these instances was a distinct reaffirmation of God’s one covenant, which, as scripture states repeatedly, is everlasting. The covenant that Jehovah made with Abram was a promise to bless him.  Not only would he bless Abram the individual, however: he would also make Abram to be a blessing.  In him would “all families of the earth be blessed” (v. 3).

In Galatians 3 the inspired apostle Paul commentates on God’s covenant with Abram, demonstrating that it is in Abraham’s see—Christ—that the blessing of Abraham comes on the Gentiles.  Have you received “the promise of the Spirit through faith”? (v. 14) Then you are blessed with faithful Abraham” (v. 9).  And you are called to be a blessing.

Sing or pray Psalter #176.

 

February 24 – Strife Between Brethren

Read Genesis 13

Abram left Ur of the Chaldees with his father, brother, and fatherless nephew Lot.  For a time they all lived in Haran.  Then God called Abram again to go to a land that he would show him, and again Lot accompanied him.  God had declared that he would make Abram to be a blessing.  Lot was the first beneficiary of that blessing.  He worshipped at Abram’s altars, and he shared the material prosperity that God had showered on his covenant friend.  But those riches led to trouble, as riches so often do, and Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen quarreled.  To Abram’s dismay, this dispute was witnessed by their neighbors.  “And Abram said unto Lot, ‘Let there be no strife…between me and thee…for we be brethren’” (v. 8).

How highly do you esteem the gift of Christian brotherhood?  “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.  The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it” (Bonhoeffer).

Sing or pray Psalter #371.

 

February 25 – King of Peace

Read Genesis 14

Lot had lately pitched his tent toward Sodom, that exceedingly wicked city, and already Abram is compelled to come to his rescue.  The king of Sodom with four of his allies throw off the yoke of Chedorlaomer, whom they had served for 12 years.  Chedorlaomer and three of his allies descend from the northeast, win a decisive victory, and take for themselves the goods and citizens of Sodom, Lot among them.  Abram pursues Chedorlaomer, divides his 318 men into separate companies, attacks by night, rescues Lot, and restores Sodom’s goods and people.  Abram was quick in his response and wise in his strategy; yet, as Melchizedek states, it was God who delivered his enemies into his hand (v. 20a).  Abram concurs, refusing to take any portion from the King of Sodom.

Melchizedek, the mysterious king of Salem, that is, king of righteous and king of peace, points to our high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). In him we have the victory.

Sing or pray Psalter #302.

 

February 26 – By Grace Alone

Read Genesis 15

Abram is troubled: God’s promise is not unfolding the way he thought it would.  But Jehovah maintains that he and Sarai will have a son.  He will be Abram’s heir, and Abram’s offspring will be as innumerable as the stars.  Abram believes Jehovah, who counts “it to him for righteousness.”  Abram was justified through faith, by which the righteousness of Christ, his Seed, was imputed to him.  And even that faith was gift (Eph. 2:8).

God then seals his covenant, employing a custom with which Abram was familiar.  (See Jer. 34:18–20.)  When two parties made a solemn covenant, they would walk together through animals that had been sacrificed and divided, signifying that death would fall on either if he broke the covenant.  God demonstrates to Abram that his covenant is all of grace and not at all dependent on human efforts, for while Abram sleeps, a smoking furnace and burning lamp pass through the divided animals.  The lamp shining through the smoke pointed to the Light that is given to the people who walk in darkness (Is. 9:2–6).  Jehovah established his covenant, faithfully maintains his covenant, and even gave his Son to die so that his covenant would stand.

Sing or pray Psalter #243:1–3, 6–10, 15.

 

February 27 – God Sees Me

Read Genesis 16

God’s promise was not unfolding the way that Sarai thought it would, either.  She recognizes that God is in control of conception and birth, yet she still determines to take matters into her own hands, and suggests that Abram take her maid, Hagar.  Abram acquiesces, and generations of heartache and trouble ensue, as is always the case when God’s laws regarding marriage and family life are disregarded.  Though an Egyptian, likely acquired when Abram and Sarai fled to Egypt during the famine, Hagar believes in Jehovah and understands that her master is God’s covenant friend.  When she conceives his child, Hagar understandably, though not excusably, becomes defiant.   Rather than acknowledge the evil fruits of her own lack of faith, Sarai deals so harshly with her pregnant maid that Hagar flees.  But God looks with mercy on this mistreated maidservant.  Hagar is witness to a theophany, an Old Testament appearance of Christ.  The Lord promises to multiply her offspring through the son that she will bear, but first he commands her to return and submit.  By grace, Hagar repents.  She turns around and returns home.

What lessons from this chapter about faith and submission can you apply to your life?  What comfort to be able to confess as Hagar did that “thou God seest me” (v. 13).

Sing or pray Psalter #398.

 

February 28 – Circumcision of the Heart

Read Genesis 17

Jehovah institutes the sign of the covenant in Genesis 17, commanding that all males in Abraham’s household above eight days old be circumcised.  Why that sign?  Calvin suggests two reasons: “first, to show that whatever is born of man is polluted; then, that salvation would proceed from the blessed seed of Abraham.”  The fact that the sign was administered to Abraham’s children as well as to his servants pictured the reality that God’s covenant is with people from all nations and classes.  Circumcision was a visible seal of the righteousness that Abraham already had by faith (Rom. 4:11).  It was administered to “a secret part of the body; for the true circumcision is that of the heart” (Matthew Henry).  So God’s initial command to Abraham in Genesis 17 is this: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (v. 1).

That command comes to us, too, for “the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:6).  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal. 6:15).

Sing or pray Psalter #304.

 

March 1 – I Know Him

Read Genesis 18

Jehovah makes a beautiful statement about Abraham in Genesis 18:19: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement.”  In the previous chapter the Almighty God had appeared to his covenant friend and changed his name from “Abram,” which means “exalted father,” to “Abraham,” which means “father of a multitude.”  Now he appears to Abraham in human form and reveals his intent to destroy the city of Sodom.  That Abraham knows God is evident from the humble manner in which he addresses him, acknowledging that he is “but dust and ashes” (v. 27) and basing his petitions on Jehovah’s own attributes: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (v. 25).

Are you one of Abraham’s children?  Gal 3:29 declares, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”   Do you follow in Abraham’s steps, keeping the way of the Lord?  Listen to his word.  He reveals himself to you there, just as he revealed himself to father Abraham.

Sing or pray Psalter #325.

 

March 2 – A Dark Night and a Lonely Cave

Read Genesis 19

Lot was a child of God, a “just” and “righteous” man, but while he lived in Sodom, he “vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Pet. 2:7-8).  Lot paid a high price to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.  He sacrificed the souls of his wife, children, and numerous grandchildren, the children of Moab and Ammon, who to the tenth generation were forbidden entrance to Jehovah’s temple (Deut. 23:3–6).  Does Lot’s sad end cause you to shake your head?  Jesus warns us, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32), and “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

But Lot’s story doesn’t end on a dark night in a lonely cave near Zoar.  It commences on another dark night in another lonely cave, with the miraculous birth of the Seed promised to Abraham, the long-awaited Child who was also a descendant of Lot through Ruth.  Why did God save Lot?  Why did he give him the privilege of being a father of our Lord?  In order that he might clearly demonstrate that salvation “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

Sing or pray Psalter #82.

 

March 3 – Imperfect Faith

Read Genesis 20

Abraham’s lie to Abimelech in Genesis 20 is all the more shameful because he had previously used the same half-truth (Gen. 12). At that time he had been rebuked by Pharaoh.  Now Abimelech chides him for lying.  Abraham’s behavior demonstrated a lack of care and concern for his wife as well as a lack of faith and obedience toward God.  Abraham gave unbelievers occasion to blaspheme the worthy name by which he was called.  Prov. 29:25 teaches, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe,” and 1 Timothy 5:8 warns, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

How brightly God’s faithfulness shines in light of Abraham’s unfaithfulness.  He protects the honor of his daughter Sarah and still hears and answers Abraham when he prays.  How can that be?  Abraham’s faith was imperfect, but through that faith Jehovah imputed to him the perfect righteousness of his only begotten Son, who said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  On that basis, too, Jehovah is faithful to you and to me.

Sing or pray Psalter #152.

 

March 4 – The Laughing Princess

Read Genesis 21

That the first verses of Genesis 21 follow the final verse of Genesis 20 highlight the truth that our God is sovereign also over conception and birth.   That’s true still today.

What a fascinating woman Sarah was!  She was first Abraham’s dear wife Sarai, which means “my princess.”  But she was foremost God’s “princess,” Sarah, the freewoman who through the promised seed would be the queen mother of many nations and kings (see Gal. 4:21ff).  She was a woman who still at ninety was so beautiful she was commended to a king and taken into his harem.  But she also possessed a beauty that would never diminish, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which adorned the hidden man of her heart.  In adornment and subjection she is our example, dear sisters (1 Pet. 3:1–6).  Do you conduct herself as her daughter?  She was also a woman who reaped the bitter fruit of attempting to take matters into her own hands, and one who laughed, first in unbelief and then with joy when she held the realization of God’s promise, the child conceived by faith, in her arms.

Do you hear and laugh with her?

Sing or pray Psalter #360.

 

March 5 – A Test

Read Genesis 22

Genesis 22 begins, “And it came to pass…that God did tempt Abraham.”  James 1 makes it clear that God does not tempt any man to sin, but he does try or test his people in order to prove their faith.  Heb. 11:17 concurs, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”  Abraham’s willingness to offer up his dear son Isaac demonstrated that his faith was complete.  By faith in Christ, Abraham was justified.  That faith was evidenced in his works (see James 2:21–22).  To all outward appearances, the command to kill Isaac’s was contradictory to God’s very nature, and his death would thwart the fulfillment of God’s promise.  Yet Abraham obeyed.  He so loved and trusted God that there was nothing he would withhold from him.

We also are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  Is there something in your life—even something good, perhaps—that God would have you give up in order to prove that you are fully devoted to him?  He didn’t spare his own Son for our sake.  “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)

Sing or pray Psalter #334.

 

March 6 – A Stranger and a Sojourner

Read Genesis 23

Thirty-seven years after the birth of Isaac, Sarah dies.  The mother of the promised seed, she has the distinction of being the only woman whose age is recorded in Scripture: 127 years.  Following her death, Abraham goes to the gate of a city of the Hittites and in public council purchases the cave of Machpelah for a burial place.  This is the first piece of property that the God’s people own in the promised land.

Abraham is an example of how we should live as those who are in the world but not of the world.  He was, in his own words, “a stranger and a sojourner” (v. 4).  He lived separately from the Hittites.  Yet he did not avoid interaction with them, and his dealings with them were courteous.  Abraham honored all men (1 Pet. 2:17).  He showed himself a pattern of good works. We’re called to live that kind of life, too: “in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (Titus 2:7–8).

Sing or pray Psalter #26.

 

March 7 – Isaac’s Bride

Read Genesis 24

Long before Isaac ever met Rebekah, Jehovah was preparing her to become the next mother in the promised line.  Her genealogy had been reported to Abraham sometime earlier.  (Genesis 22:20ff).  Now, in a series of wonderful events, the Lord brings her to Isaac to be his wife, “witnessing thereby that he doth yet as with his hand bring unto every man his wife” (Marriage Form).   Is it your earnest desire that your children marry from among the family of God?  Do you counsel your children with regard to seeking a godly spouse?  Do you pray fervently for that, even if your children are still young?  Do you continually pray for the spouse whom God has given you?

What a godly example of obedience and trust is young Rebekah!  When it comes to following the Lord, she doesn’t hesitate like those whom Jesus called in Luke 9:59-62.  She goes out, not knowing whither she went.  Are you willing to follow our heavenly bridegroom unconditionally?  What joy there will be when the beloved Son of God is united with his bride in heaven forever!

Sing or pray Psalter #124.

December 8 – Go to God in Prayer

Read Psalm 142

1 Samuel 22 records the time that David hid from Saul and the Philistine king Achish in the cave of Adullam.  1 Samuel 24 recounts the time that he fled from Saul to a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, the same cave his pursuer shortly entered.  It’s likely that on one of those occasions, David prayed the words that are recorded as Psalm 142.  The psalm bears the title “Maschil,” meaning that it is a psalm that teaches.  What lesson would David have us learn?

Here is the first lesson: when you are troubled, overwhelmed, or abandoned like David was, go to Jehovah in prayer.  Reserve a quiet time, find a quiet place, and quiet your heart with this knowledge: Jehovah knows your path.  He encompasses your way and directs you to an expected end.  When your flesh and your heart fail, find in him the strength of your heart your portion forever (Ps. 73:26).  When his way for you eludes your understanding, confess this by faith: “But he knoweth the way that I take; when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Sing or pray Psalter #387.

 

December 9—Jehovah Knows Your Way

Read Psalm 142

Imagine yourself on a busy street corner in a big city.  People stream past you, and horns blare as drivers attempt to maneuver through traffic.  If you would shout right now, would anyone hear you?  Everyone around you seems absorbed by his own schedule and intent on his own destination.  Now consider that this city is one of thousands in the world, and you are only one of billions of people.  The Creator of this universe is so great that the enormous universe in which our tiny planet spins is the work of his fingers.  And yet, when you cry to him, he hears you.  Not only does he hear you, he knows you, and he knows your path.  His knowledge is not a formal, academic knowledge.  It’s intimate and informed care for you and for all who belong to him in Jesus Christ.

David clung to that truth when he called out the words of Psalm 142 to Jehovah.  Lonely and weary, he poured the last of his energy into prayer, knowing that the one to whom he cried would answer him, for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father (HC, LD 9).

Sing or pray Psalter #426:1–5.

 

December 10—The Promise Keeper

Read Psalm 142

Though he was forlorn and forsaken when he prayed the words of Psalm 142, still David hoped in God’s promises.  He looked forward to the day when he would be surrounded by God’s people and crowned their king.  (The word translated “compass” in verse seven in the KJV can also be rendered “encircled,” denoting, perhaps, the future encircling of David’s head with a crown.  Psalter #388:5 extends this idea to the joy with which all of God’s people are crowned.)

Ultimately, David trusted in God’s promise that from his family would come the Messiah, the King who descended to hell and the grave on our behalf, but tore away the bars of that prison and ascended to Jehovah’s right hand.  From there he gives gifts to his saints, and in him all of the promises of the Father are “yea” and “amen.”  Do you pray to Jehovah in that assurance?

Sing or pray Psalter #388.

 

December 11—A Threefold Distress

Read Psalm 143:1–4

A troubled David again appeals to Jehovah in Psalm 143.  But before he presents his case against his enemy in verse three, he admits his own guilt in verse two: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.”  So you and I should always first confess our own sins, both in prayer and when confronting a brother or sister.  But if David himself is guilty, on what grounds does he plead?  On the basis of Jehovah’s faithfulness and righteousness (see verse 1).

David’s case against his enemy consists of three incremental crimes.  First, the enemy has persecuted his soul.  He pursues David, intent on his life.  Second, the enemy has smitten him “down to the ground.”  His threats and slander have crushed David’s spirit.  Third, he has made David to “dwell in darkness.”  David is so overwhelmed that he cannot find any comfort or light.  “My heart within me is desolate,” he says.  All this he presents to the Judge.

What temptations pursue you today?  Would your own sinful self crush the new man within?  Plead your cause before the Judge on the basis of his Son’s righteousness.

Sing or pray Psalter #390.

 

December 12—A Threefold Discipline

Read Psalm 143:1–6

David presented his enemy’s three-fold persecution in Psalm 143:3. Initially overwhelmed by his enemy, David regains a right perspective when he exercises three spiritual disciplines (v. 5).  First, he remembers the days of old.  His current troubles have consumed him, but how do they compare with trials he has faced in the past?  Second, he meditates on all Jehovah’s works.  He cannot reflect on former days without acknowledging God’s gracious interpositions on his behalf.  Third, he muses on those works.  The word muse originated in Greek mythology.  Now the word muse refers to a person who inspires an artist, writer, or musician.  Pondering Jehovah’s works moves the poet in David: he stretches out his hands to Jehovah and praises his works in song.  He longs to be again refreshed by his God.  So verse six ends with the word “Selah,” which denotes a musical interlude.

Not a day goes by when you and I don’t need to be restored to a proper spiritual perspective at one point or another.  Are you discontent?  Discouraged?  Depleted?  Reflect on your life.  Consider the ways Jehovah has provided for you in the past.  And may your mediations inspire you to praise our God in word and song.

Sing or pray Psalter #389:1–3.

 

December 13—A Morning Prayer

Read Psalm 143

The tone of Psalm 143 changes after the “Selah” in verse six.  It’s as if David is finished posturing on the witness stand.  He approaches the Judge’s bench, as it were, and pleads with him face to face.  You see, David knows this Judge well: the Judge is his Father.  And even more than David desires the just punishment of his enemies, he desires a healthy relationship with his Father.  He comes to Jehovah with a prayer: a perfect prayer (it is, after all, a Spirit-inspired prayer), a morning prayer.  It is a prayer that I memorized some years ago and often pray silently even before I arise at the beginning of the day.  Here is part of that prayer: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee” (v. 8).

To that prayer David desires a speedy answer, and he­­­­—and you and I—can be confident of just that.  For when “the righteous cry,” “the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles” (Ps. 34:17).

Sing or pray Psalter #391.

 

December 14—Deliverance Necessitates Destruction

Read Psalm 143

In Psalm 143:11–12, David presents two petitions.  First he pleads, “Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble,” and then he prays, “And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.”

David knew that to pray for his own deliverance was to pray for the destruction of his enemies.  He understood the reality of the antithesis, a truth at which many twenty-first century Christians balk.  It’s a truth that the ungodly seem to comprehend readily, however.  For some time American Christians could claim that we have a voice in our culture.  No longer can we pretend that that is true.  “What we face is not a struggle within a culture but…a clash of alternative cultures” (Carl Trueman).  The forces of the moral revolution are advancing on every front, and out of all the confusion they’ve generated, they’ve made one thing clear: they will take no prisoners.

Sing or pray Psalter #389.

 

December 15—My Spirit, Thy Spirit

Read Romans 8:1–18

Before we move on to Psalm 144, let’s consider the contrast David makes in Psalm 143 between his spirit and Jehovah’s Spirit.  In verse four David writes, “My spirit [is] overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.”  Like Paul, David knew “that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18).  That’s why he prays for Jehovah’s Spirit.  “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” (v. 10).  David knew that he could not trust the leading of his own fickle heart, but he trusted the good, Holy Spirit of his God to lead him with light and truth.

What trials do you face today?  Is your spirit overwhelmed?  Turn to the everlasting God, Jehovah, the creator of the ends of the earth.  He fainteth not, neither is weary.  The Spirit whom he gives is not a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.  That Spirit teaches you and me through the living and abiding word of God.

Sing or pray Psalter #389:1,2 and 5.

 

December 16—Ten Glories

Read Psalm 144:1–4

David begins Psalm 144 with a list of 10 of Jehovah’s glories.  The fact that he lists 10 of God’s attributes is in itself significant, for in the Bible the number 10 symbolizes completeness and perfection, attributes that belong only to God.  In the fight of faith, Jehovah alone is David’s offense: (1) his strength (or more, literally, “Rock,” as it rendered in our Psalter #392) and (2) the one who teaches him to fight.  Jehovah is (3) David’s “goodness,” the one who loves him with committed covenant love.  Jehovah alone is also David’s defense: his (4) fortress, (5) high tower, (6) deliverer, and (7) shield.  He is (8) the one in whom David trusts.  David is no longer waiting to be crowned king as he was in Psalms 142 and 143.  He is the king of Israel, but he recognizes that he could not rule without Jehovah, either.  God is (9) the one “who subdueth my people under me” (v. 2d).  What a wonder that this great God is (10) mindful of man!  And yet that is the last glory for which David praises him.

What a wonder that such a God takes thought of man, whose days are like the grass.  What a wonder that such a God takes thought of sinners like you and me!

Sing or pray Psalter #392:1–2.

 

December 17—Deliver Me

Read Psalm 144

The first verses of Psalm 144 are peppered with “my” and “I.”  David’s faith is very personal, yet he recognizes that God saves him as a member of a body.  As a type of Christ, our king, David switches to the plural pronoun “our” in the psalm’s latter verses as he prays on behalf of all God’s people.  But first he has an urgent request.  That request is articulated in the chorus that is found in verses seven and eight and verse eleven, a chorus that balances and sets apart the middle section of Psalm 144.  David pleads, “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (v. 11).  David is requesting that Jehovah will purge from the people of God the unbelievers that dwell among them.  The mouths of these ungodly people are full of emptiness.  And what sits at their right hand, their ready and indispensable help?  Nothing but lies.

What a difficult prayer to pray, but what a necessary prayer!  Are you able to pray that prayer when the strange children of whom Christ’s church must be rid are your own family members or friends?

Sing or pray Psalter #392:1–4.

 

December 18—Sons Like Plants, Daughters Like Pillars

Read Psalm 144:11–15

What makes David’s petition that Jehovah rid him of strange children so very urgent?  He knows that the maintenance of the antithesis is essential to the prosperity of God’s people.  Therefore, he links that petition to his subsequent requests with the conjunction “that.”  David prays that Jehovah will rid Israel of the unbelievers who dwell among them so that their covenant children may thrive.  He desires sons like “plants grown up in their youth.”  He compares the godly young men in Israel to fruitful plants, resilient to wind and storm and also to drought, for their roots are planted deep in the river of life.  He likens Israel’s daughters to pillars (“corner stones” is perhaps better rendered “corner pillars”) that not only support a structure, but beautify it as well.  (That’s a striking figure, sisters!  Don’t permit yourself to think that our role in Christ’s church is unimportant because God has reserved the special offices for our fathers, husbands, and brothers!)

Do you love the children of the church?  Do you desire to see them grow and prosper spiritually?  Then, for the welfare of those children, you must be willing to pray, “Rid me…from the hand of strange children.”

Sing or pray Psalter #393.

 

December 19—The Happy People

Read Psalm 144

Psalm 144:13–14 describes a prosperous people.  Their granaries and barns are full, and they live in peace and safety.  If you were to walk through the streets of their city, you would hear no cry of lament.  These are also happy people.  Are they happy because they enjoy such abundance?  No, their happiness has a much deeper source: they are happy because they belong to Jehovah.  Many Christians today have fallen prey to the lie that above all God desires that they be happy.  Consider those who disregard God’s hatred of divorce, reasoning that he will sympathize with their unfaithfulness and subsequent adultery because he wants them to be happy.  Others excuse their own more respectable sins—bitterness, discontent, impatience, etc.—assuming that God will dismiss their damnable self-idolatry because he is sorry they are unhappy.

Dear Christian, do find the source of your happiness in your situation, or in the knowledge that you belong to your sovereign heavenly Father, the holy God who desires your holiness far more than your earthly happiness?  Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!

Sing or pray Psalter #399.

 

December 20—An Unsearchable Greatness

Read Psalm 145

Like Psalms 25 and 34, in the original text Psalm 145 is an alphabetical acrostic.  The first word of verse one begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the first words of the following verses begin with the remaining letters of the Hebrew alphabet in sequence.  This style of poetry likely aided God’s people in memorization, but it also suggested a totality of the treatment of its subject, similar to our expression “from A to Z.”  Jesus employs that idiom using the first and last words of the Greek alphabet, “Alpha” and “Omega,” meaning that he is not only the first and the last, but everything in between as well!  Interestingly, one letter of the Hebrew alphabet—the letter “nun”—is absent from Psalm 145.  Perhaps that verse was lost in translation.  More likely David intentionally excluded it to suggest the infinite, incomprehensible glory of God.  “His greatness is unsearchable” (v. 3b).

Though we will never be able to wrap our minds around Jehovah’s glory, we do not shrink back from studying him as he’s revealed himself in the scriptures.  Christian faith requires “a certain knowledge;” repudiates willing ignorance; engages the renewed mind.

Sing or pray Psalter #394.

 

December 21—A Limited All

Read Psalm 145

Psalm 145:9 reads, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”  Does that verse teach that God dispenses grace on both the elect and reprobate?  No, not when it is considered in its context.  Jehovah is the one who feeds every living thing.  He is indeed “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:2).  But he is also “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (v. 17), near only “to all that call upon him in truth” (v. 18), and the one who preserves only “all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy” (v. 20).

Does your mouth speak the praise of that incomparably great God?  Do you look forward to the day when, willingly or unwillingly, all flesh will bless his holy name?  The apostle John relates a vision of that great day in Rev. 5:13: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”

Sing or pray Psalter #396.

 

December 22—A Grand Finale

Read Psalm 146

Each of the books of Psalms ends with a doxology.  Consider the final verse of Book One: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting.  Amen, and Amen” (Ps. 41:13).  Psalm 72:18-19 concludes Book Two: “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.  And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”  Psalms 146 to 150 are the doxology, the grand finale that concludes not only Book 5, but the entire book of Psalms.  There are no laments here.  No cries for help.  Just a sustained “Hallelujah!  Praise Jehovah!”

Christmas is coming.  Is your calendar jam-packed?  Are you wrestling with the “holiday blues”?  May our meditations on the grand finale to the Book of Psalms move you to praise the covenant God who kept his word and sent his only begotten Son.

The praise to which the psalmist calls us is both corporate—“ye” in the KJV denotes a plural “you”—and personal: “Praise the Lord, O my soul” (Ps. 146:1b).  It is praise that demands one’s entire being, in every situation, for a lifetime.

Sing or pray Psalter #401.

 

December 23—The God of Jacob

Read Psalm 146

Psalm 146:3–4 warn us of the folly of placing our trust in men.  Included among those in whom there is no help are our own selves.  Do not put your trust in your own knowledge, strength, frugality, punctuality, or perseverance.  There is no salvation there.  But “happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help” (v. 5a).  The God of Jacob.  What a wonder that the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things permits himself to be called “the God of Jacob”!  Jacob, the liar and conniver.  Jacob, whose myopic favoritism wreaked havoc between his wives and among his children.  Jacob, who was quick to trust in his own wealth and schemes.  Yes, Jacob.  Jacob, who wrestled with God and prevailed.  Jacob, who worshipped Jehovah by faith.  Jacob, whom God loved.

Is the God of Jacob your God?  Then happy are you.  And what a wonder of grace that he allows himself to be called your God and mine.

Sing or pray Psalter #400.

 

December 24—Fully Divine

Read Psalm 146

Psalm 146:3–4 warns us not to place our trust in men, but in Jehovah.  The psalmist describes Jehovah as the one who made all that is in heaven, earth, and the sea, keeps truth forever, executes judgment for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, looses prisoners, restores sight to the blind, lifts up those bowed down, loves the righteous, preserves the strangers, relieves the orphan and widow, turns the way of the wicked upside down, and reigns forever.  Can you think of anyone else to whom that description belongs?  Jesus Christ, the messianic king for whom Old Testament Israel yearned, the one whom we’ve encountered repeatedly in Psalms.  He is the King whose name endures forever (Ps. 72:17), the very Son of Jehovah (Ps. 2:7), the one who declared and proved himself to be the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  In him, the baby who was laid in a manger, dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9).  And the preaching of his gospel still turns the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Sing or pray Psalter #400.

 

December 25—A Jerusalem Celebration

Read Psalm 147

Psalm 147 is addressed to a specific group of people: the saints in Israel, who are referred to twice as “Jerusalem.”  They are Jehovah’s chosen nation, the beneficiaries of his great power, infinite understanding, abundant provision, and transforming word.  It is their city that he builds up, and their nation that he encircles with peace.  He gathers their outcasts together and blesses their children.  Among all the peoples of the earth, Jerusalem has reason to sing praises unto Jehovah with thanksgiving.

It’s Christmas Day!  The stores have been dressed in holiday style for months already, and much of the world will do their best to make merry today.  But among all the people of the earth, we who are God’s people are the one who have reason to celebrate today.  The Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us.  Do you believe in him?  Christmas is a Jerusalem celebration.  Praise ye the Lord (Ps. 147:20c).

Sing or pray Psalter #403.

 

December 26—A Transforming Word

Read Psalm 147

Psalm 147 contains three calls to praise Jehovah.  These appeals, which are found in verses 1, 7, and 12, divide the psalm into three sections.  After each call to praise, the psalmist focuses on one or more of God’s attributes as they come to expression in creation and in his people.  First the psalmist observes Jehovah’s great power and infinite understanding.  He calls the stars by their names.  How can we doubt that he is powerful enough to gather together the outcasts of the church, heal the broken-hearted, lift up the meek, and cast down the wicked?  After the second call to praise, the psalmist describes God’ gracious and sustaining provision for his creation.  Do not doubt that he will provide you with all things necessary for body and soul, also, but remember that it is not your physical strength that delights him.  He takes pleasure in those who fear him.  In the third section the psalmist focuses on the efficacious word of God.  God’s word sends the snow and hail, and it is also the transforming power that melts them.  That powerful word he entrusted to Israel, his church.  What kind of transformation has (and does) his word work in you?

Sing or pray Psalter #402.

 

December 27—The All and the Alone

Read Psalm 148

Psalm 148 is a systematic, all-encompassing call to all things created to praise Jehovah.   The psalmist systematically enjoins different groups in the creation to praise, beginning in the heights with the angels and then working his way down to the sun and moon, all the stars, the earth’s atmosphere, and the clouds.  Then the psalmist descends to the lowest parts of the earth and works his way up.  He addresses the mythical dragons and the creatures that dwell in the depths of the sea, then the so-called “elements of nature”—fire, hail, snow, mist, and stormy winds—followed by the mountains and hills and then the living things that populate them—plants, animals, and birds—before turning to address the king of God’s creation: man.  No people group escapes his attention, regardless of their age, sex, or social status.  All are called to praise Jehovah.  Why?  Because “his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”

Do you reserve all your praise for the one who alone is God?

Sing or pray Psalter #404.

 

December 28—His

Read Psalm 148

In Psalm 50:10–12, the Almighty God declares, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.  I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.  If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.”  Although all created things belong to Jehovah, the psalmist reserves the possessive pronoun “his” for only two of the created groups addressed in Psalm 148.  He refers to “his angels” and “his hosts” in verse two, and he writes of “his saints” in verse 14.  These two groups belong to Jehovah in a special way.  They are moral, rational beings.  The angels are those who “do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word” (Ps. 103:20), and his saints, the people who are near him, are those in whom he works “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

What a wonder that the righteous and holy God of heaven and earth calls us his.

Sing or pray Psalter #405.

 

December 29—A Bed…

Read Psalm 149

Rest is an important, recurring theme throughout scripture.  God set aside a day of rest at the end of the very first week.  The Israelites longed to enter Canaan, the land of rest.  The physical rest that our bodies need and the land of Canaan typified the spiritual rest that is to be found only in our Savior.  To all who labor and are heavy laden, Jesus cries, “Come unto me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29).    In his full and free salvation we repose, ceasing from our own works and resting in his steadfast love.

Psalm 149 begins again with “Hallelujah!”  The Psalmist enjoins Israel to rejoice in their Maker and King, praising him with music and dance.  Why?  “For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation” (v. 4).  The knowledge of their salvation gives Jehovah’s saints cause to celebrate, even when they are lying on their beds (v. 5).  It’s noteworthy that these saints are resting, but they’re not asleep: they’re singing at the top of their lungs.  Similarly, the glorious salvation rest that we’ve been given doesn’t mean inactivity: it drives us to praise.

Sing or pray Psalter #408.

 

December 30—…and a Sword

Read Psalm 149

Psalm 149:5 contains the striking image that we considered yesterday, that of saints singing aloud on their beds.  That their salvation rest is not one of ease is further demonstrated in the following verse: not only are they singing as they rest, they have a sword in their hand!  This deadly sword is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), “the word of God” (Heb. 4:12).  And it is to be used to execute vengeance, to bind kings, and to execute the judgment written.

Who has the honor of wielding this sword?  “All his saints.”  So the gospel is brandished by the church, leaving Jehovah’s enemies without excuse and conquering his saints from every tribe and tongue, taking them captive to Christ, and making them citizens of Israel.  So you and I have the privilege of turning that blade on our own hearts day-by-day.  “With this two-edged sword believers fight against their own corruptions, and, through the grace of God, subdue and mortify them; the sin that had dominion over them is crucified; self, that once sat king, is bound with chains and brought into subjection to the yoke of Christ” (Matthew Henry).

Sing or pray Psalter #407.

 

December 31—A Hallelujah Chorus

Read Psalm 150

If you have ever attended a live performance of Handel’s Messiah, perhaps you were startled when, three-fourths of the way through the concert, the entire audience suddenly stood for the “Hallelujah” chorus.  Legend has it that at the oratorio’s London premiere, King George II became so excited during the “Hallelujah” chorus that he leapt to his feet.  Out of respect for the king, the entire audience followed suit, and from that time on, it became tradition for all to stand during that climatic piece.

The grand finale of Psalms climaxes in Psalm 150.  Thirteen times in six verses the psalmist sounds this note: “Hallelujah!”  He calls on “all his works in all places of his dominion” to praise Jehovah (Ps. 103:22).  Nor is it enough that a solo instrument be employed in this endeavor: the psalmist conducts an entire orchestra in a symphony of praise to God, and he calls on all that breathe to join the chorus.   Indeed, it’s hard to read (or sing) this psalm without leaping to one’s feet. Yet at its a conclusion lingers the recognition that everything that breathes does not praise Jehovah and the yearning for the day when the Messiah returns and that prayer becomes reality.  (See Rev. 5:11–14.)

Sing or pray Psalter #409.

 

Dear Daily Press readers,

The end of 2016 marks the end of our devotional study of Psalms.  As the year 2017 begins, we commence a chronological devotional study of the entire Bible.  Not all of the Bible is arranged in historical order.  As one would expect with such an ancient, lengthy, and detailed book, there are differences among approaches to organizing its text in historical sequence.  In The Reese Chronological Bible Dr. Edward Reese painstakingly arranges the Bible not just chapter by chapter, but sometimes even verse by verse.  Certain portions of scripture he places according to the estimated date of their content and others by the estimated date of their composition.  In order to simplify our reading and writing schedule and to maintain momentum in our study, we plan to assign one chapter of scripture per day, following a chronological list from www.blueletterbible.org with a few changes made after referring Dr. Reese’s chronological Bible.   We recognize that some chapters of the Bible are much longer than others and may require more time to read aloud than is suitable for family devotions where there are young children present, for example.  In those cases, please feel free to read only a portion of the chapter or to divide the reading material between multiple devotional sessions.  Nor will we writers be able to cover all the material in a chapter in a brief mediation.  Each devotional will either act as a summary of the assigned chapter or focus on one event, theme, or person found therein.

Why a chronological study?  In “Skip’s Farewell,” printed in the December 2014 issue of Beacon Lights, Mr. Chester Hunter, who wrote the devotional column for this magazine for more than 20 years, suggested that a future writer consider a chronological approach to the Bible.  Since it can be helpful to study the scriptures in their historical context, Mr. and Laning and I have decided to follow his advice.  We pray that our study of the Bible in chronological sequence will prove edifying and interesting to us and to our readers.

Sarah Mowery

 

January 1 – A Very Good Place to Start

Read Genesis 1

The Christian faith begins before the beginning.  In the beginning, God.  The triune Almighty God was there in the beginning.  He commanded, and the world was created (Ps. 148:5).  He spoke, and it was done (Ps. 33:9).  First he called into existence a watery chaos, and then he ordered that chaos into a beautiful world in which plants, animals, and man could thrive.  What was his evaluation of his creation?  “Very good!”

The Reese Chronological Bible inserts Isaiah 14:12–17 and Ezekiel 28:13–18, which poetically recount Satan’s fall, after Genesis 1:1.  We know that God created the angels very early, because scripture tells us that when the heavenly hosts observed God creating, they shouted for joy (Job 38:7).  In his book The City of God, Augustine suggests that God’s creation of light on the first day might refer metaphorically to his creation of the angels.  He reasons this because while Genesis 1:3 records God’s creation of light and in Genesis 1:4 notes that God called the light good, never does the passage say that God created the darkness, nor does he call it good.  He only separates the darkness from the light.  Whatever the case, already at the very beginning, a shadow stretches over God’s good creation.

Sing or pray Psalter #288.

 

January 2—A God-Ordained Institution

Read Genesis 2

Genesis 2 returns to the creation of man, describing it in more detail, and teaches that marriage is a creation ordinance.  I recently read of a man who proposed to his girlfriend by asking her if she would live with him in an institution.  That’s certainly an unconventional proposal, but it’s not unbiblical!  Marriage is a God-ordained institution, a law that is as basic to human morality as the law of gravity is to our physical existence.  God himself determined the clear boundaries of this institution.  A man and woman enter it when they make their marriage vows, and there they remain until one of them dies.  Within marriage, the sexual relationship is “safe and fruitful.”  Without that institution, sexual activity is “dangerous and destructive” (Ash, Married for God.

Why did God institute marriage?  It’s commonly presumed that he did so because Adam was lonely.  The Bible doesn’t say that Adam was lonely, however.  It says that he was alone and that he needed a helper.  God created man to be fruitful and to rule over his creation.  Adam wasn’t capable of fulfilling that high calling by himself: he needed a woman to help him.  In short, God didn’t create marriage to meet our needs.  God instituted marriage so that man—male and female—could better serve him.

Sing or pray Psalter #86.

January 3—Nakedness and Shame

Read Genesis 3

The Bible never beats around the bush.  Already its second chapter ends with a sentence that can trigger smirks around the supper table: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  Nakedness indicates vulnerability.  Adam and Eve were created without sin: they had nothing to hide from one another or from God.  But as soon as they fell into sin, their nakedness became a cause for shame: there was much that they desired to hide from one another and from God.  That doesn’t seem to be the case with many in our world today, does it?  In fact, the word “naked” is rarely used; the euphemism “nude” is preferred.  Nudity is nakedness portrayed in an “artful” way with the intent to deceive and manipulate.  It is sin stripped of its shame.

Adam and Eve learned that they were unable to cover their nakedness themselves, nor could they hide from God.  Nor can we, for “neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13).  The covering of their shame—and ours—required a blood sacrifice, the bruising of the heel of the promised Seed.

Sing or pray Psalter #142.

 

January —Knowing and Taking

Read Genesis 4—4002 BC–3372 BC

I began yesterday’s meditation by stating that “the Bible never beats around the bush.”  Nor does the Bible employ euphemisms, though it might seem as if Genesis 4:1 does exactly that: “And Adam knew Eve his wife…”  Perhaps the word “knew” in that context seems prudish or archaic to us.  In fact, it’s a beautiful expression for the exclusive, intimate physical relationship that belongs to husband and wife.  The Hebrew word translated “knew” in Genesis 4:1 is the same word David uses in Psalm 139 in his attempt to describe the intimate and inexhaustible knowledge that Jehovah has of him.  That’s the secure, self-sacrificial context in which God intended sexual relations to take place.

But how quickly fallen man deviated from what God calls good!  In Genesis 4:19 we meet the first recorded bigamist, Cain’s vengeful, boastful great-great grandson, Lamech.  Lamech didn’t “know” his wives: he “took” them.  His relationship with his wives resembled the majority of contemporary sexual relationships, relationships that consist of the self-serving exploitation of another to satisfy one’s own lusts.  Such is the sad case when man makes himself god and reserves the right to determine what is good and what is evil.

Sing or pray Psalter #384.

 

January 5—After His Image

Read Genesis 5

In Genesis 1:26, the triune God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  And so he created man a moral, rational creature, a ruler who resembled the sovereign King, his Father. Strikingly, the backward genealogy in Luke 3 begins with Jesus Christ and ends this way: “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (v. 38).  But Adam forfeited his Father’s image when he fell.  He wasn’t content to be just an image of the one true God: he desired to be God himself.  Sadly, he remained only an image, but now the image he bore was that of the devil (John 8:44).  Instead of calling order out of chaos as God had done, his rule would create more chaos.  Man was called to be fruitful and multiply: he proliferated wickedness and filled the earth with violence.

God restores his image in all those who are elect in Jesus Christ, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3).  They are his children, in whom his Spirit dwells, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.

Sing or pray Psalter #243:1,2,5,6 and 15.

 

January 6—Godlessness and Grace

Read Genesis 6—2468 BC

The history of the human race from Genesis 3 through Genesis 6 is an increasingly downward spiral.  The blurring of the antithesis between the seed of woman, “the sons of God,” and the seed of the serpent, “the daughters of men,” leads to God’s assessment of mankind in Genesis 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Though he is longsuffering (1 Pet. 3:20), he determined to destroy mankind “with the earth.” (Gen. 6:7 and 13).  But—and thank God, there is a “but”!—“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 8).

This grace that Noah found when he looked into the eyes of Jehovah came not on account of any works of righteousness that he had done; it was the fruit of Jehovah’s saving mercy.  God saved Noah by the flood, a picture of the washing of regeneration, “which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  We, with Noah, are “justified by his grace,” and “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:6–7).  Praise him!

Sing or pray Psalter #211.

 

January 7—The Fire Next Time

Read Genesis 7—2348 BC

Of all the stories in the Bible, perhaps none is subject to as much ridicule and unbelief as the story of Noah’s ark and the great flood.  That’s ironic, because there’s more at stake than the factualness of the biblical account of Noah.  The story of the flood encapsulates the entire gospel.  The ark was Noah’s only hope for salvation.  God commanded him, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark.”  Similarly, the gospel calls men to their only hope for salvation: Jesus Christ.  There was nothing in Noah himself that made him worthy of this gracious salvation.  Soon we’ll see him, this second Adam, in a garden and then naked and ashamed.  But God made a covenant with him that he would not break.  Noah stepped into the ark, and God closed the door.

Jesus said that the days before his second coming in judgment would be like the days in which Noah lived.  Unbelieving men and women will eat and drink and marry and mock at their only hope of salvation.  To them comes this warning: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water, the fire next time” (James Baldwin).

Sing or pray Psalter #76.

Dear Daily Press readers,

Shortly before I submitted this month’s devotionals for publication, Ben Laning and I realized that we had miscommunicated regarding which psalms we would be writing on each month. As a result, we have overlapped in our study of several psalms in the past, and this month I wrote meditations for three psalms that Mr. Laning has already considered.  We’re sorry! We will do our utmost to ensure that it does not happen again.

Sarah Mowery

 

August 8—But I Pray

Read Psalm 109

Psalm 109 begins with this earnest plea: “Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise.”  In other words, “Don’t be silent!  Speak on my behalf!”  David prays that prayer in the face of his enemies, who need no encouragement to speak.  In fact, they cannot stop their lying mouths.  Though God’s servant has shown them love, they reward him evil for good, surrounding him with hateful accusations and fighting against him without cause.  What is David’s response to this unjust treatment?  He gives himself unto prayer.

What is your reaction when others despitefully use you?  Are you quick to gossip about them?  Do you allow bitterness toward them to fester in your heart?  In Matthew 5:44 our Lord commands us to respond as David did: “pray for them.”  For what do we pray when we pray for our enemies?  We pray for their repentance and salvation, if that be Jehovah’s will.   If that is not his will, then we pray that he will justly punish them for their ungodly deeds, avenging those whom they persecute (see Rev. 6:10).  And note this from Psalm 109:1: even that prayer begins with praise.

Sing or pray Psalter #301.

 

August 9—Vengeance Belongs to the Lord

Read 1 Samuel 24

In Psalm 109 David’s enemies set themselves up as both prosecution and judge.  They bear false witness against him and then condemn his soul (v. 31).  David recognizes that their deeds are evil, but he also understands that he doesn’t have the right to execute justice upon them; that privilege belongs to God alone.  Therefore he doesn’t avenge himself, but, as we saw yesterday, he does pray that Jehovah will judge them and repay their wicked deeds.

We’re quick to reward evil for evil.  Romans 12:19-21 commands: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto [the] wrath [of God]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  From our perspective, God’s justice sometimes seems long overdue.  Nahum 1:1–3 reassures us: “…The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.  The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”

Sing or pray Psalter #253:1–5 and 12.

 

August 10—Let Another Take His Office

Read Acts 1:15–26

Psalm 109 is an outstanding imprecatory psalm.  Do you remember what an imprecatory psalm is?  It’s a psalm that calls on God to execute justice against his enemies.  Indeed, it’s hard to sing the versification of this psalm without shivering in horror: “Let sudden death upon him break, / his office let another take, / his children and his widowed wife / pursue the homeless beggar’s life” (Psalter #300).  Can a Christian sing those words?

Yes, we can.  They are words inspired by the Holy Spirit of Christ, a truth Peter verifies when he refers to Psalm 109 in Acts 1 with application to Judas Iscariot.  We may not sing this psalm in a spirit of personal vindictiveness: each of us must be very aware of our near inability to hate with righteous hatred.  We’re called to bless—not curse—those who persecute us (Rom. 12:14).  We sing this psalm prophetically, acknowledging the justice that God metes out in history and looking to the day when he will finally and fully condemn all his enemies.  Whether he chooses to show mercy to a man or harden him, he is just (Rom. 9:18).

Sing or pray Psalter #300.

 

August 11—God’s Enemies and their Punishment

Read Psalm 139

Who are God’s enemies?  All those who oppose his rule.  In Psalm 139 David honors God as the omniscient creator.  The knowledge that Jehovah determined all the details of his life from eternity moves him to praise.  In contrast, the wicked rise up in hatred against him.  Instead of worshiping the supreme God, as they are created and commanded to do, they defect to gods that are less than absolute.  What is the punishment for such evil?  Death.  Scripture speaks of two deaths.  The first death comes to elect and reprobate alike when the soul departs from the body.  The second death is reserved for the reprobate: it is the death of both body and soul (Matt. 10:28).  Reprobate men do not cease to exist after the second death, but when the only purpose of one’s existence is torment, it “can more properly be called death rather than life” (Augustine).

What just and terrible punishment!  Doesn’t the very thought make you cry, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”? (Ps. 139:23–24).

Sing or pray Psalter #383.

 

August 12—Annihilation?

Read Matthew 25:31–46

Like David in Psalm 109, Paul imprecates God’s justice in 1 Corinthians 22: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (that is, accursed).  The dreadfulness of the thought of God’s wrath being poured out upon unrepentant men may make us avoid praying that he executes justice at all.  Couldn’t he just annihilate unbelievers at the end of time?

Satan would like us to believe that he could.  The devil persists in trying to make sin less offensive than what it is, heaven less glorious than what it is, hell less horrific than what it is, and the gospel less urgent than what it is.  But the Bible answers the question about annihilation with a resounding “No!”  Job 34:12 says, “Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.”  And what is the just punishment of all who rebel against his rule?  God’s word clearly teaches that they will be punished for eternity in hell (Deut. 27:26; Matt. 25:46).  But the Bible also plainly shows that there is a way to escape eternal damnation: all those who believe in Jesus Christ will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:15–16).

Sing or pray Psalter #23.

 

 

August 13—Reprobation

Read 1 Peter 2:1–10

John 3:36b reads, “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  Are the wicked then reprobated on account of their sins?

No.  The first part of the same text teaches, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” yet we know that the elect are not saved because of what they have done.  Neither are the wicked reprobated on account of their works.  As Romans 9:11 teaches, God destines the reprobate to eternal punishment even before they are born or have done any good or evil.  They were appointed to stumble at the Savior and be offended by him (1 Pet. 2).  To that we may exclaim, “Then it’s not fair for God to find fault with the wicked, for no man is able to resist his will!”  To that the Holy Spirit replies, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” (Rom. 9:20–21).

Sing or pray Psalter #94.

 

August 14—The Kernel and the Chaff

Read Romans 9

It’s important when we consider predestination to keep the purpose of God according to election in the forefront of our minds.  The fact that he reprobates at all may seem arbitrary and cruel, but as Romans 9:22–23 sets forth, God endures the reprobate in order that he might make his power known and bestow the riches of his glory on his elect.  To quote my pastor, “Election and reprobation are not flip sides of the same coin.”  Reprobation serves election.  Just as a builder uses scaffolding to construct a building, so the reprobate serve the building of God’s spiritual house.  Just as a farmer sows his field and waters it with an eye to the grain that he will harvest, so God grows his field with his eye on the wheat that he will gather into his garner (Luke 3:17).

“We ourselves are God’s own field, / Fruit unto his praise to yield; / Wheat and tares together sown / Unto joy or sorrow grown; / First the blade and then the ear, / Then the full corn shall appear; / Grant, O harvest Lord, that we / Wholesome grain and pure may be” (“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”).

Sing or pray Psalter #199.

 

August 15—Cursing and Blessing

Read Deut. 27:11–Deut 28:9

God’s punishment of his enemies is just.  Though he reprobates them before they do any good or evil, they are willing slaves to sin, and they are rewarded according to their works.  Do you remember how David describes the ungodly in Psalm 109:16–17?  “He remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.  As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.”  There’s a warning here for us who believe but still must fight our sinful natures all our lives long.  Disobedience of God’s law brings misery and desolation.  As God made abundantly clear to the Israelites, his blessing is experienced only in the way of obedience.  In what way are you walking?

When we walk in the way of obedience, we will not be troubled by the assaults of the wicked.  “Let them curse,” says David, “but bless thou” (Ps. 109:28).  Jehovah responds, “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings” (Isa. 3:10).

Sing or pray Psalter #40.

 

August 16—Fat or Lean?

Read Psalm 109:21–31 and Psalm 106:1–15

The derision that David has experienced at the hand of God’s enemies is so great that he is physically wasting away.  He describes himself as a shadow: his knees are weak, his body gaunt.  But it’s not only persecution that has brought him to this low physical state: he so desires the blessing of the Lord that he’s given himself over to fasting and intense prayer.

For the most part, you and I know very little of such intense physical need.  There are some of us who do, those whom our Father leads the way of disability or disease.  But most of us live comfortably in material wealth and physical prosperity.  Rarely are we in such spiritual agony that we waste away physically.  That ought to give us pause, a reason to examine ourselves and make sure that we aren’t trusting in the good gifts that God has given—and they are good!—but in the Giver himself.  What a terrible thing to be physically healthy but to have leanness in one’s soul!

Sing Psalter 290: 1–4, 6 and 9.

 

August 17—The Anointed King

Read Psalm 110

We spent much of our study of Psalm 109 considering the relationship between the Almighty and his enemies.  You and I can be hurt and offended by those who hate us.  But as Psalm 110 teaches, God’s enemies cannot upset or harm him: the triune God lives in perfect peace and blessedness.  Nothing that his enemies (or his disobedient people) do can hinder his will in any way.  That’s true even when the wicked persecute the just.  Indeed, Psalm 2 and other passages teach that Jehovah laughs at his enemies’ frenzied schemes against him and his people: he has anointed his Son to be King.  There is coming a day when those who hate him will see how they served Jehovah’s eternal purpose, and they will bow before his Son.  On that day the Lord Jesus Christ will ascend his heavenly throne in the sight of all mankind and rest his feet upon his enemies, whom he has finally and fully defeated.

You belong to that great King, dear Christian.  He is for you!  Who can be against you?

Sing or pray Psalter #303.

 

August 18—The Anointed Priest-King

Read Matthew 22:41–46

Psalm 110 teaches that Jesus Christ is not only God’s anointed King; he is God’s anointed Priest-King.  Other scripture passages make clear that he is also ordained and anointed “to be our chief Prophet and Teacher” (HC, LD 12).  Still more: he is God, the divine second person of the Trinity.  Jesus pointed to Psalm 110 as proof of his divinity.  As he noted to the Pharisees, in Psalm 110 David refers to his promised son as “my Lord.”  He didn’t look only for a king who would sit on his earthly throne in Jerusalem: he spoke prophetically of the King who would rule from God’s right hand.  Jesus Christ, the son of David, is the divine fulfillment of the three Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king.

Fellow Christian, do you bear the name of the Anointed One?  Then confess his name, present yourself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him, fight against sin and Satan in this life, and look forward to the day when all his saints will reign with him eternally over all creatures.

Sing or pray Psalter #302.

 

August 19—The Willing People

Read Psalm 110:1–3 and Hebrews 13:20–21

Do you serve King Jesus, your Savior and your Lord, willingly or grudgingly?   Psalm 110:3a describes Christ’s people this way:  “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness…” Note two things about these subjects.  First, they obey King Jesus willingly.  Second, they are characterized by holiness.  Other translations render “the beauties of holiness” this way: “in holy garments” and “in holy array.”  The holiness that distinguishes them is not inherent in themselves: they’ve been clothed with it.  Like them, you and I have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  Those garments distinguish us as priests who are consecrated to his service.

When are Christ’s subjects willing?  “In the day of thy power.”  That might refer to the great judgment day or to the day when Christ’s Spirit was poured out, but Calvin also offers this rendering: “‘At the time of the assembling of thine army,’ that is to say, as often as there shall be a convening of solemn and lawful assemblies, or the king shall desire an account of his people.”  When must you and I, subjects of King Jesus, be ready to fight and ready to give him account?  Today and every day.

Sing or pray Psalter #368.

 

August 20—Youthful Dew from the Womb of the Morning

Read Psalm 110:3 and Ephesians 1

Psalm 110:3b is beautifully poetic, but what does it mean?  Several commentators suggest the following interpretations.

The descent of the dew at the birth of the day is imperceptible.  Likewise, the wonderful rebirth of Christ’s offspring by the work of the Holy Spirit is invisible.  Like the dewdrops, Christ’s people are innumerable.   Day after day, the dew invigorates the earth.  Those who belong to Christ are those who “shall renew their strength” day by day, who “shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).  They will flourish and multiply on this earth and then enjoy youthful vigor for eternity.  The sparkling dewdrops transform the blades of grass and the strands of the spider’s web into strings of lustrous pearls.  The church is similarly lovely and pure, arrayed in the garments of holiness “for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2).  Though the descent of dew seems mysterious, it can be explained.  So too the dew that is Christ’s people: their conversion is a consequence of the wielding of his rod, of his gospel going forth.

Sing or pray Psalter #124:1–5 and 9.

 

August 21—Two Heads

Read Psalm 110:5–7, Genesis 3:14–15, and Judges 7: 1–8

According to my study Bible, the word heads in Psalm 110:6 is singular in the original text.  The phrase could then be read this way: “He shall wound the head over many countries.”  That rendering brings to mind the mother promise, doesn’t it?  Though Satan rules over the kingdoms of men, our mighty Priest-King is the one who will crush his head, casting out the prince of this world (John 12:31).

The word head is also used in Psalm 110:7, which teaches that because Christ drinks of the brook in the way, he shall lift up his head.  God reduced Gideon’s army to the 300 men who were so very intent on their mission that they wouldn’t even stoop to drink.  Like those Old Testament soldiers, the Captain of the Lord’s hosts drinks only from the brook in the way: he will not be diverted from his singular purpose.  And when every member of his church is gathered in, he will return, their glorious head, exalted over all.

Sing or pray Psalter #303.

 

August 22—His Covenant is Forever

Read Psalm 111

Psalm 111 is a communal celebration of the Lord’s wonderful works.  The psalmist describes the Jehovah’s works in the following ways: they are great; they are the subject of the meditation of the godly and the source of their delight; they are honorable, glorious, enduring, right, and just.  These great works are the works of a God who himself is grace and compassion.  He gives his people all that they need.  He makes them to know his mighty deeds, for by themselves they would be blind to those wonderful works.

Among the greatest of his works is the work which the psalmist mentions twice: he is faithful to his covenant.  Jehovah has not made many covenants: he remembers the one covenant that he has made with those who fear him forever (Ps. 105:8).

Sing or pray Psalter #304.

 

August 23—The Beginning of Wisdom

Read Ecclesiastes 12

Psalm 111 teaches that Jehovah’s covenant is everlasting.  It also notes two other things that endure forever: the praise of that holy, faithful God and his commandments.

The secular worldview that is so prevalent in the Western world today contends that religion and reason oppose one another.  The Bible contradicts that notion.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” the scriptures assert again and again.  One who fears God keeps his commandments and comes before him in humble repentance whenever he breaks that law.  This, declares Ecclesiastes 12:13, is the whole duty of man.  Proverbs 1:7 concurs: those who despise the wisdom and instruction of God’s word are fools.  Psalm 111:10 adds, “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments.”   It is the Christian worldview and the Christian worldview alone that provides one with answers to all of life’s questions.  That understanding belongs only to those who love and keep Jehovah’s commands.

Sing or pray Psalter #327.

 

August 24—Heavenly Treasures

Read Psalm 112:1–3

From a worldly point of view, the first three verses of Psalm 112 contain several paradoxes.  The psalmist first declares that the person who delights in Jehovah’s commandments is blessed.  The ungodly majority in our day–and our own sinful hearts–would have us believe that happiness is realized in the way of pursing our own desires, all of which by nature are contrary to God’s commands.  In verse two we read that the children of the righteous man will be mighty upon the earth, but that’s not the way it appears.  Indeed, the children of the righteous, if not persecuted, are scorned, and if not scorned, are pitied as those who have been hopelessly indoctrinated by and must be rescued from their parents.  The third verse teaches that wealth and riches fill the house of believers, but there are and have been many Christians who are dirt poor, materially speaking.  How do we answer these seeming paradoxes?

Psalm 112 speaks of the spiritual riches that belong to the believer and his children.  Do you have those eternal riches in your possession?

Sing or pray Psalter #322.

 

August 25—The Compassionate Man

Read Psalm 112

The righteous man bears the image of his heavenly Father.  Among the communicable attributes that Jehovah bestows upon them that love him are compassion and generosity.  When we clench earthly riches tightly in our fists, they flow through our fingers like sand.  But when we hold them in an open palm, ready to distribute to those in need, we lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven.  In Deuteronomy 15:11 Jehovah commands, “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”  Proverbs 11:24–25 teaches, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.  The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”

Psalm 112:9 adds this note: the generous man will be held in remembrance.  He is held in grateful remembrance by those to whom he has shown kindness, but more importantly, he is held in everlasting remembrance by his God, who does not forget his ministering to the least of his brethren.

Sing or pray Psalter #305.

 

August 26—Not Afraid of Bad News

Read Jer. 29:1–14

Recently an Islamic terrorist perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history when he opened fire at an Orlando night club patronized by homosexuals.  Within hours of this horrific act, several public statements were made that pointed to Christians and all who oppose the radical demands of the LGBT agenda as complicit in his crime.  Already those who maintain biblical standards with regard to marriage and sexuality are sometimes labeled as bigots and are accused of perpetrating hate and violence against homosexuals and so-called transgender people. No doubt the shooting in Orlando will be used as a springboard for an increase in such slander. What should be the Christian’s response to such false yet fearful accusations?

Psalm 112:7 (ESV): The man who fears Jehovah “is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting the Lord.”  He knows that “our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3). And the plans that he has for his people are always plans of good, not of evil, plans that bring them to a glorious, expected end.  Therefore, do not despair at evil tidings: turn to our great God in prayer.

Sing or pray Psalter #309.

 

August 27—From Rising unto Setting Sun

Read Psalm 113

What’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night?  Multiple studies have shown that 80–90% of smartphone users begin and end each day on their phones.  For those of you still unfamiliar with these devices, their users likely aren’t making phone calls.  They’re texting, reading e-mails, browsing social media sites, scanning news headlines, or glancing at the forecast.  The Christian, whether or not he owns a smartphone, must open and close each day a different way: “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).  (Note: Not only the first and last moments of the day belong to the Lord, every moment in between does as well!)

The next morning you’re tempted to reach for your smartphone before you open your Bible, ask yourself, “In whom or in what do I seek strength for this day?”  (And if you use the Bible app on your phone for devotions, guard yourself against the distractions that are only a touch away!) The next time you lie on your pillow with your phone in your hand rather than your hands folded in prayer, ask yourself, “To whom or to what do I look for a peaceful end to this day?”

Sing or pray Psalter #306.

 

August 28—And the Lord Came Down

Read Genesis 11:1–9

In his children’s book The Biggest Story pastor Kevin DeYoung recounts the building of the tower of Babel this way: “One time, a whole bunch of people got together to build a giant tower. They thought they could build all the way up to heaven. But it must not have been all that big because God had to come down just to see it.”  Psalm 113:5-6 teaches that our God is so great that he not only humbles himself to behold the things of earth: he condescends to the behold the things that are in heaven too!  “Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!”

What a holy, mighty God we serve!  Yet, he takes thought for us, utterly dependent and totally depraved creatures of the dust!  Consider, too, our Savior Jesus Christ.  Equal to the Father in holiness and glory, he humbled himself to assume our weak human nature.  He then humbled himself still further to the death of the cross, all for a puny, profane, prideful people.  May meditating on his wonders move us to reverent, heartfelt worship.

Sing or pray Psalter #266.

 

August 29—The Barren Woman Keeping House

Read Acts 9:36–42

It seems as if all the barren women mentioned in the Bible, with the exception of Michal, David’s wife, have a happy ending. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth were all given at least one child, two of them in their old age.  What about God-fearing women who die childless?  Is Psalm 113:9 not true for them?

Psalm 113:9 is true for the God-fearing woman. The home that she keeps is a spiritual house, the church of the living God. In that house she might be one ready to encourage her fellow believers by speaking God’s word, as did Anna, the prophetess.  Perhaps she, like Dorcas, clothes the needy in her congregation. Or maybe the example she follows is that of Priscilla, who worked alongside her husband Aquila to support the mission work of the apostle Paul.  To her, as to all of the members of Christ’s church, belong the church’s children. What great blessing is hers–and theirs–when she freely gives of her time and resources to help teach them and care for them.

Sing or pray Psalter #27.

 

August 30—Barren by Choice

Read Psalm 127

The highest percentage of American women on record are childless: barren by choice.  In many cases, their barrenness is a consequence of their religion, though they would be loathe to call it a religion: secularism. More and more women (and men) in our day view children as impediments on their career-building and pleasure-seeking, and for those reasons they refuse to bear children.  The childbearing of Christian women (and men) must also be a fruit of their faith. God calls children–even many children–a blessing, and we must take him at his word.  Though we bring forth and raise children with much sorrow, as God told Eve she would, we do so in the hope that our children are not our own, but belong to our heavenly Father and to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, and we look forward to the day when they will rejoice with us in all the wonders of heaven.

Sing or pray Psalter #360.

 

August 31—A Joyful Mother

Read Prov. 31:10–31

There is a word in Psalm 113:9 that brings me grief, but it is not the word “barren”: it’s the word “joyful.”  God has graciously given my husband and me seven children, children who fill our home with laughter and wonder, but I confess with sorrow that too often I am not a joyful mother.  Instead of serving my family with the humble mind of Christ, I’m prone instead to resent the countless messes, innumerable loads of laundry, and perpetual meal preparation and cleanup that many children entail.  To top it off, I’m quick to blame my self-centered attitude on the sleep I lack due to middle-of-the-night feedings rather than the sin that festers in my heart.

Essentially, the cross that a Christian mother bears is the same cross as the barren Christian woman must carry.  It’s the cross of denying one’s self, laying aside one’s own desires, and willingly following our Savior in the way in which he leads us.  What cross do you bear?  Do you carry that cross joyfully today?

Sing or pray Psalter #359.

 

September 1—The Sea Fled

Read Psalm 114

In Psalm 114 the psalmist gives inanimate, geographical features of creation animal characteristics.  He does so to demonstrate that all of creation is at the beck and call of our great God.  At his command and in his presence the sea flees, the Jordan river turns back, the mountains and hills skip, and the earth trembles.

What is Jehovah’s purpose in all of his workings in the natural world?  Both in the Old Testament and in our day his works in creation serve a two-fold purpose.  The first purpose is the glory of his own name.  The second purpose is the salvation of the people in whom he dwells and over whom he rules.  Children of God, what a wonder!  The mountains, the stars, the sea, hurricanes, tornados, rain, and drought—all are orchestrated by our loving Father for his glory and our good.

Sing or pray Psalter #307.

 

September 2—Like Idol, Like Idolater

Read Psalm 115

Several weeks ago our family watched a documentary about India in which the narrator of the film visited a market place where men were crafting idols.  The artisans first twisted straw into their desired shape—in this case, they were mass producing images of an elephant.  They patted mud over the straw forms.  When the mud dried, they added garish finishing touches: brightly-colored paint and sparkles.  Throngs flocked to buy these idols.  They bowed to them, sacrificed to them, and held feasts in their honor.

Little has changed in countries like India since Psalm 115 was written.  The gods the majority of Indians worship are the work of their own hands.  They are not alive, and they are incapable of doing anything for those who worship them.  Psalm 115 declares, “They that make them are like unto them.”  Tragically, those who worship gods of wood and stone are as dead as their idols, incapable of seeing, hearing, or believing the truth.  Likewise, when we put our trust in idols— investments, possessions, health or strength, physical appearance, popularity, fellow human beings—instead of Jehovah, we are like them instead of like him.  “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

Sing or pray Psalter #308.

 

September 3—Speech Driven by Faith

Read Psalm 116

In Psalm 116 the psalmist recounts his great trouble and Jehovah’s ensuing deliverance of his soul from death.  Before detailing his thankful response, he writes in verses 10 and 11 about his speech.  In verse 10 he reiterates a beautiful confession: “I believed,” he declares, “therefore have I spoken.”  The psalmist’s confession is a fruit of his faith.  The apostle Paul quotes this text in reference to his and Timothy’s faithful preaching in the face of great persecution (2 Cor. 4:13).

Our faith must motivate us to speak, too.  Paul commends the church in Thessalonica as examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  What attribute of the Thessalonians did Paul want their fellow saints to imitate?  “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing” (1 Thess. 1:8).  Similarly, the saints who were scattered abroad from Jerusalem “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8).  It’s not enough that our neighbors witness us live a moral life.  We must be so overwhelmed with the gospel we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

Sing or pray Psalter #426:1-7.

 

September 4—Speech Driven by Fear

Read Ecclesiastes 5

In Psalm 116:10 the psalmist’s faith compels him to speak.  His was the experience that Psalm 119:27 relates: “Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.”  In the very next verse, however, the psalmist remembers a time when he spoke in haste.  His rash words—”All men are liars”—were driven by fear.

How readily our mouths also pour out foolishness, foolishness that springs from all manner of sinful attitudes: fear, anger, pride, discontent…  Proverbs 29:20 says, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words?  There is more hope of a fool than of him.”

What proceeds from your mouth—corrupt communication or words that edify and minister grace to their hearers? (Eph. 4:24).  Sometimes we’re forced to “eat our words.”  Proverbs 18:21 assures that us that we will always eat the fruit of what we say, if not in this life, then in the life to come: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Sing or pray Psalter #386.

 

September 5—Precious in Jehovah’s Sight

Read Psalm 23

As he pens Psalm 116, the psalmist faces death.  This confession comforts him: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  The psalmist knows that the same God who covered him in his mother’s womb will also walk with him through dark valley of the shadow of death.  Jehovah appointed the day of his birth; to him also belongs the day of his death.  That great comfort is also ours as we ponder our impending deaths.  Death is the terrible, just punishment for sin, but our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death and the grave.  For that reason we do not consider our own death or mourn the death of loved ones as those who have no hope.

Precious in Jehovah’s sight, too, is the death of those saints who are carelessly and brutally martyred for their faith.  Not only do they receive a great reward in heaven, but he uses their witness to grow his church on earth as well.  In response to the bitter persecution Christians faced in the arenas of Rome, the ancient church father Tertullian wrote: “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.”

Sing or pray Psalter #426:8–10.

 

September 6—All Nations Blessed

Read Psalm 117

At first glance, Psalm 117 may seem remarkable only in its brevity.  But pause a moment and consider that the saints of the Old Testament sang this song of praise.  The Israelites looked forward to the day when people from all nations would praise Jehovah with them.  They knew well the promise made to Abraham: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18).  How wonderful heaven will be!  The Bible tells us that there every race and tribe of people will be represented among the members of Christ’s body, gathered together to jointly praise his name for eternity.  Though scattered over the face of the earth, those saints praise Jehovah already in this life.  They praise him for the great mercy and kindness he shows to them in forgiving their sins and supplying them with all things necessary for their bodies as well as their souls.

What’s your attitude toward those whose skin is a different color than yours or toward those who hail from foreign countries?  It’s our responsibility to reach out to them, inviting them to join us in praising the God who has shown us such undeserved kindness and mercy.

Sing or pray Psalter #316.

 

September 7—The Foundation of our Prayers

Read Psalm 118

Psalm 118 is a psalm of grateful, jubilant rejoicing.  Why does the psalmist rejoice?  He rejoices because the Lord is on his side, and in his joy he calls on Israel, the priests of Aaron’s line, and all who fear Jehovah to enter the gates of the tabernacle and join in him worship.  Psalm 115:9–13 addresses the same three groups of people twice and in the same order.  That method brings to my mind the sometimes helpful practice of praying in concentric circles.  When one prays in concentric circles, he begins by praying for himself.  Then he prays for those nearest him, perhaps his spouse, children, or parents.  After that, he moves outward to his extended family, his friends, and members of his church family, followed perhaps by his neighbors, the denomination to which his church belongs, the rulers of his nation, and the church catholic.  Praying in concentric circles can be a helpful way to organize one’s prayers.

The occasion of the psalmist’s praise is the foundation of all our prayers.  He speaks prophetically in verse 22 of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the elect, precious cornerstone of God.  The man who believes on him will never be confounded.

Sing or pray Psalter #427.

 

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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Judah: A Story of Redemption

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021.   The story of Judah is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. We often overlook this history because it is nestled in the middle of the story of Joseph. All the […]

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