February 7—Doeg and David
Read 1 Sam. 21: 1–7 and 1 Sam. 22: 6–23
Psalm 52’s lengthy heading reads: “To the chief Muscian, Maschil, a Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.” In the passages that we read for today, David and his men are fleeing from Saul, but they are hungry. David requests food from Ahimelech the priest, who is suspicious of David’s sudden and secretive arrival. David lies—“I am on a confidential errand for King Saul”—and Ahimelech gives him and his men the showbread, which was consecrated and reserved for consumption by the priests. Their exchange is witnessed by Saul’s servant, Doeg, an Edomite. Doeg reports what he has seen to Saul, and, at Saul’s command, murders 85 priests and their families and herds.
Was David wrong to eat the showbread? No. In Mark 2: 25 Jesus teaches that David and his men were justified in eating the showbread, just as the disciples were right to pick corn to eat on the Sabbath. It was wrong for David to lie to Ahimelech, however: his “little” lie had terrible, far-reaching consequences. Tomorrow we’ll consider his reaction when he hears of the slaughter of the priests.
Sing or pray Psalter #145.
February 8—Those Who Love Evil
Read Psalm 52
David recoils when hears of Doeg’s vicious attack on God’s priests. He cries, “Why do you brag about your wickedness, you mighty man?” He then describes the man who loves evil rather than good. That man devises all kinds of treachery and deceit, and his tongue is the weapon he uses to execute his destruction. In Psalm 64: 2–3, the psalmist prays that God will protect him such men: “Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words.” Yet, sadly, the righteous are prone to the same sinful speech. By nature the tongue is set on fire of hell (James 3: 6). But those who are redeemed have also been given a new nature and a heart that fears Jehovah. Therefore we declare, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate” (Prov. 8: 13).
When you pray today, pray for protection from and just judgement for those who work destruction with their tongues. But also plead, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141: 3).
Sing or pray Psalter #386: 1–4.
February 9—The Wrath of Man Will Praise the Lord
Read 1 Sam. 2: 12–36
The psalmist contrasts God with the evil man: God’s goodness endures continually (v. 1). How could David declare that when he had just learned of Doeg’s slaughter of God’s priests? David 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 Sam. 2: “Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house” (v. 31). “God is not a man, that he should lie…hath he said, and shall he not do it?” (Num. 23: 19).
Just as God was faithful to execute his judgement upon the priests, he will also be faithful to execute his judgment against all ungodly men, who are represented by Edom, the descendants of Esau, the family to which Doeg belonged. And God’s judgment will be just: “Thus saith the Lord; for three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever” (Amos 1: 11).
Sing or pray Psalter #145.
February 10—A Green Olive Tree
Read Psalm 52
The day is coming when God will uproot all those who trust in riches and delight in wickedness out of the land of living. Like weeds that are pulled out of a garden or chaff that is burned in the fire, so will the ungodly be. But the righteous, though they endure trials and troubles now, are like olive trees. The leaves of those who are watered by the word of the Lord are green, and they do not cease to bring forth fruit (Ps. 1: 3; Jer. 17: 8).
Do you trust in Jehovah? Then you can laugh at the foolishness of the wicked and declare with the psalmist, “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee forever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints” (Ps. 52: 8–9).
Sing or pray Psalter #251.
February 11—All Come Short
Read Romans 3: 10–31
Eleven months ago we considered the Psalm 53’s twin. Do you remember which psalm that was? Psalm 14. Then we learned that those who lack faith are fools. Foolishness is “not the absence of intellectual capability but the presence of moral perversity” (Alistair Begg). Fools deny God, the God who alone is worthy of their praise, the God on whom they are dependent and to whom they are morally accountable. They deny him because they love sin and do not want to be reproved for their evil deeds.
Verses two and three of Psalms 14 and 53 are quoted in Romans 3: 10–12, reminding us that God’s evaluation of the fool is true of us too by nature, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3: 24). Therefore, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (v. 20). Instead, God’s law shows us how miserable we are (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 3). That’s a lesson we need to learn in order to live and die happily, for if we don’t know how great our sin and misery are, we won’t seek to be delivered by the Savior.
Sing or pray Psalter #23.
February 12—Domestic and Foreign Enemies
Read Psalm 53
Psalm 14: 4 describes Israelites who deny God and persecute their poor brethren: “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.” Verse 5 reassures the faithful: “There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.”
Psalm 53 is one verse shorter than Psalm 14. The fourth verses are identical, but Psalm 53:5 elaborates on the workers of iniquity: “There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.” The workers of iniquity in Psalm 53 are not the ungodly within the nation of Israel, but the heathen who would attack and destroy the people of God. They fear even when no man pursueth (Prov. 28: 1; 1 Kings 7: 6–7), for they know that “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8: 31b).
Sing or pray Psalter #146.
February 13—Like Them That Dream
Read Psalm 126
After deploring the fools who deny God and hold the righteous captive in anguish and affliction, the psalmist laments, “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad” (Ps. 53: 6). Psalm 126 is a beautiful commentary on the truths in Psalm 53: 6. Psalm 126 speaks of the bitter trials endured by God’s saints from the euphoric perspective of those who have been set free from captivity.
What trial brings you grief today? Be comforted: though we sow in tears now, when you and I are fully freed from our bondage to sin, we too will be like them that dream. We need not fear, no matter what circumstances God has decreed for us, for we have the victory in Jesus Christ! Yet we must be careful what we sow, “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6: 7–8).
Sing or pray Psalter #357.
February 14—Suppliant Prayer
Read 1 Sam. 23: 19–24, 1 Sam. 26: 1–2, and Psalm 54
Psalm 54 bears a lengthy, specific heading. According to Joshua 15: 24, the family of Ziph belonged to the tribe of Judah, which means that they were related to David, yet they betrayed his hiding place to Saul. David pens Psalm 54 when he learns of their treachery.
This psalm is separated into two parts by the “Selah” at the end of verse three. The first three verses comprise a prayer. David doesn’t begin his prayer by focusing on his foes: he turns his eyes upon God first, calling to mind his name and his strength. Then he entreats, “Hear my prayer, O God,” before he relates his trouble: “For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul” (v. 3). Even though the Ziphites belonged to the same tribe, David calls them “strangers.” David was a companion of all them that feared Jehovah and kept his precepts (Ps. 119: 63). Do you view God’s church as your family? Scripture teaches that Jesus is the firstborn of many brethren. That means that your fellow saints are your brothers and sisters—your family—in the truest sense of the word.
Sing or pray Psalter #350.
February 15—A Lofty Claim
Read Psalm 54
David condemns his enemies in Psalm 54: 3b. This is the evidence that David uses to come to the conclusion that they have no regard for God: they have risen up against him and seek his life. That’s a pretty lofty claim, isn’t it? Would you dare to say that because someone is against you they are definitely against God also?
This text causes us to consider the reality that though men penned the psalms, it is Christ who speaks in them. The Bible is his word. David is justified in his conclusion here—it’s likely that the Ziphites knew that God had anointed him to be Israel’s next king, and to be against the anointed king meant that they were against God. But to be against the King who truly and perfectly loves righteousness and hates evil, the one whom God has anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows to preach the gospel to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted, is to be against God (Ps. 45: 7 and Luke 4: 18–19). As Jesus said, “He that hateth me hateth my Father also” (John 15: 23).
Sing or pray Psalter #147.
February 16—Confident Assurance
Read Matthew 14: 22–30
David’s prayer in Psalm 54: 1–3 is answered immediately. No, God doesn’t destroy his oppressors as soon as the words are out of his mouth: he answers David’s prayer by immediately filling his heart with confident assurance. David has taken his eyes off his troubles and looked at God. Now he proclaims, “Behold, God is mine helper” (v. 4). In fact, David’s faith is so sure that he plans a sacrifice of thanks in verse six, and in verse seven he speaks of his salvation as if it is already accomplished, as if the future were the present: “For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.”
You and I are prone to be like Peter: we worry about the waves instead of turning our eyes upon Jesus. But like David, we must have no doubt but that our heavenly Father “will make whatever evils he sends upon us in this valley of tears turn out to our advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 26). In Jesus, all the promises of God are yes and Amen (see 2 Cor. 1: 20 and also HC, Q&A 129).
Sing or pray Psalter #295.
February 17—Wings Like a Dove
Read Psalm 55
Psalm 55 is a heartfelt lament that springs from another difficult experience in David’s life. Most assume that he wrote this psalm in response to his betrayal by Ahithophel, his counselor and close companion. Upon learning that Ahithophel has joined himself to his rebellious son, Absalom, David is so overwhelmed that he wishes he had wings like a dove. If he did, he would fly far away to find rest.
Do you feel that way sometimes? I do. When I consider other saints who endure or have endured great trials, I chide myself, “Being a godly wife and mother should not be so difficult! Why am I so often impatient and discontented?” Yet I sometimes think to myself, “Oh, if only I could get away for a bit, then I could enjoy a little peace.” But that’s not the answer to our troubles, is it? No, Psalter #150 answers that desire to fly away like a dove this way: “No, soul! Instead, call on God all the day: the Lord for thy help will appear. At eve, morn, and noon humbly pray, and he thy petition will hear.”
Sing or pray Psalter #150.
February 18—Cast Your Burden upon the Lord (1)
Read Psalm 55
David knows he cannot flee his troubles like a bird; instead, he enjoins his soul, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” (v. 22a). His command to his own heart is one that extends to all of God’s saints. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11: 28). “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4: 6). Cast “all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5: 7).
The word translated “burden” in Psalm 55: 22 literally means “that which has been given,” or “allotment.” To every one of his children, God gives a specific portion. Yet “burden” is a fitting translation, for regardless of one’s lot, each bears a burden. That burden can come in the form of physical weakness or sickness, emotional or mental distress, strife in relationships, financial troubles, or just the wearying grind of everyday life. And every one of us bears the great burden of sin. Those are the burdens that we’re called to cast on the Lord in prayer.
Sing or pray Psalter #150.
February 19—Cast Your Burden upon the Lord (2)
Read Psalm 55
Our elderly neighbors across the street have a massive maple tree in their front yard. Last autumn we raked up the golden leaves that had fallen from that tree and carried them to our backyard, where we layered them on our garden. I made several trips across the street with a large, black trash bag packed with leaves on my back. When I got to my destination, I’d let that heavy bag roll off my shoulders and fall–plop!–to the dirt below.
When the psalmist enjoins us to cast our burden on the Lord’s shoulders, he means for us to roll the burden on our backs into the mighty arms of our heavenly Father. The burden is too heavy for us to lift, and it’s certainly too heavy for us to throw. All we can do is prayerfully roll that burden into our Father’s everlasting arms. He removes entirely some burdens that we roll onto him. No longer do we need to struggle beneath the load of sin’s penalty. But some burdens, like Paul’s thorn, he doesn’t remove. Rather, he strengthens us to bear its weight and makes our steps sure so that we do not stumble beneath its load.
Sing or pray Psalter #149.
February 20—At Evening, Morn and Noon
Read Daniel 6: 1–11
Casting our burden upon the Lord, like all of our good works, is a work that God himself works in us (Eph. 2: 10; Phil. 2: 13). Yet it’s a work that demands deliberate action on our part: we must consciously commit our burdens to Jehovah in prayer.
In Psalm 55: 17 David declares, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” My study Bible notes that David’s reference to evening, morning, and noon does not denote three specific times at which he prayed, but rather implies that he is praying continually. Likewise, we’re called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5: 17) and to continue “instant in prayer” (Rom. 12: 12). Our Lord taught that we “ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18: 1). Yet it’s important that we have regular, scheduled prayer times each day, for “much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray” (D.A. Carson). Daniel was so consistent with his prayer times that even his enemies knew when they would find him on his knees. Is that true of you and me?
Sing or pray Psalter #149.
February 21—Freed from Sin’s Penalty
Read: Isaiah 53
In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, it is Christian’s burden that drives him to make his pilgrimage to the Celestial City. Of what does Christian’s burden consist? It’s not wearisomeness, pain, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, or death. Those are sorrows that his neighbor, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, warns him that he will encounter on his way. No, this is Christian’s burden: he knows that he is condemned to die on account of his sin, and after death he will face judgement. He knows the just sentence he deserves too: eternal hell. So he answers Mr. Worldly Wiseman, “Sir, this burden upon my back is more terrible to me than are all these things which you have mentioned. Nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the way, if so be I can also meet deliverance form my burden.”
Do you also long for deliverance from your sins and miseries, too? Christian found his relief at the foot of cross. Joyfully he sang, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.”
Sing or pray Psalter #142.
February 22—Freed from Sin’s Power
Read Rom. 13: 8–14?
John Bunyan’s Christian is not only freed from his burden of sin and guilt at the cross: he’s clothed in white before he goes on his way rejoicing. The same is true of you and me. We’ve been clothed in Christ’s righteousness, in the garments of salvation. To those who have put on Christ comes this command: “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13: 14).
Christ’s atonement has not only freed us from sin’s penalty, you see: his work has freed us from sin’s power as well. Whom he justifies he also sanctifies. Is there a sin in your life that you feel as if you are unable to fight? Perhaps you struggle with sexual sin. Maybe you’re prone to impatience or jealousy. Have you convinced yourself that you are saved even though you persist in that sin? If so, you’re lying to yourself: either you are not truly justified, or you choose to ignore the strength of the new man that dwells in you by God’s Holy Spirit. There is not a sin that lies outside the Spirit’s power. Lay hold of his sword, the word of God, and fight!
Sing or pray Psalter #92: 1–3.
February 23—Words of our Savior
Read Psalm 55
Do you hear your Savior speak in Psalm 55? His enemies, the Pharisees and the rulers of the Jews, plotted mischief against him day and night. He experienced the painful disloyalty of one who was close to him. It was not enemy that betrayed him, but one of his own disciples, a man who had accompanied him in all of his travels and worshiped with him at the temple. When the terrors of death were fallen upon him, he turned to God in prayer: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour…” (John 12: 27). Jesus was a man of prayer at morning (Mark 1: 35), noon (Matt. 14: 23), and evening (Luke 16: 12).
By the power of his Godhead, Jesus sustained in his human nature the incomparable burden that was cast upon him: God’s terrible wrath against our sin (HC, LD 6). By sustaining that burden, he obtained for and restored to us righteousness and life. Because he—the Righteous—suffered for us, we can rest assured that no matter what troubles we may face, our salvation is sure: we will never be moved.
Sing or pray Psalter #150.
February 24—His Burden is Light
Read Matthew 23: 1–8 and Matthew 11: 28–30
There is another burden that you and I pick up again and again, in spite of its weight. That burden is the burden of legalism. At the time when our Lord walked on this earth, the self-righteous Pharisees loaded the burden of countless laws on the backs of their fellow Israelites. We are prone to the same legalistic tendencies, holding ourselves and our neighbors accountable to laws of our own making. This is foolishness. We’re unable even to keep the ten commandments of our holy God. The Scriptures declare, “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight,” for “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Rom. 3: 20; Isa. 64: 6). Yet we vainly imagine that we can save ourselves by keeping laws of our own.
Our Savior removes this burden too from our shoulders. His perfect obedience to God’s law is imputed to us by faith. Instead of trusting in our own righteousness, which is no righteousness at all, we’re called to trust in him and to be led by his Spirit. His yoke is weightless, far lighter than the yoke of works-righteousness and self-righteous legalism. Which burden do you bear?
Sing or pray Psalter #109.
February 25—I Will Not Fear
Read Psalm 56
On election day 2015, the people of the city of Houston voted on a measure known as “The Bathroom Ordinance.” Among other things, this law, if passed, would allow homosexuals and so-called transgender people unrestricted access to the restrooms of their choice. To the dismay of the far left and Houston’s aggressive homosexual mayor, the proposal failed. The response of the media was immediate and severe: the proposal failed because the majority of Houston voters were motivated by bigotry and hatred. There could be no other reason.
I’m sure that there were rational, moral citizens who voted against the ordinance in Houston who are not Christians. Yet I give this example to demonstrate that the cry of the psalmist in Psalm 56: 5–6 is increasingly true for Christians in the United States: “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.” What will be our response to such persecution? We must respond like the psalmist: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (v. 3).
Sing or pray Psalter #151.
February 26—God is for Me
Read Psalm 56
2 Tim. 2: 12–13 declares, “Yea, and 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 say with the psalmist, “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (v. 11). When we’re slandered or falsely accused, we can be tempted to retreat in fear. 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).
Brothers and sisters, this means that we must have a confident witness. The evil in this world, the persecution of God’s saints—these are things that our Lord foretold. They are proof that his word is true and that he is trustworthy. We must not compromise the clear teachings of scripture to pacify our persecutors, nor may we isolate ourselves from society. Both of those responses are driven by fear. We are the light of the world. “Let your light so shine before men…” (Matt. 5: 16).
Sing or pray Psalter #152.
February 27—Providence Makes the Payment
Read Psalm 57
David is hiding from Saul in a desolate cave in the rocky wilderness of Engedi. Saul pursues him with 3,000 soldiers and camps for the night in the mouth of the very same cave in which David and his men cower. In Psalm 57 David discloses his distress of soul that night. “Be merciful unto me, O God,” he pleads. “My soul is among lions.”
What motivates David to cry unto God, to hide in the shadow of his wings? First, he knows that God is sovereign. Second, he has experienced God’s gracious care of him in the past: this God is the God “that performeth all things” for him (v. 2). In his book The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel offers this translation of Psalm 57: 2b: “‘I will cry unto God most high: unto God that performeth the things which he hath promised.’” Flavel comments, “Payment is the performance of promises. Grace makes the promise, and providence the payment.” Do you find comfort in knowing that God’s providence “performs and perfects” all that concerns you? “It goes through with its designs and accomplishes what it begins,” and it neither does, “nor can do anything that is really against the true interest and good of the saints” (Ibid).
Sing or pray Psalter #154.
February 28—Be Thou Exalted, O God
Read Psalm 57
This is the refrain of Psalm 57: “Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth” (v. 5 and 11). Though he was greatly troubled, David desired God’s glory more than he desired his own salvation. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, for by nature we desire nothing but our own prosperity and praise.
Our Savior also desired his Father’s glory above anything else. At the beginning of Passion Week, Jesus prayed, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name” (John 12: 27–28a). In response to that prayer of our Lord, there came “a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Because the sinless Son of God humbled himself to the death of the cross, God also hath highly exalted him, and he, the Son of Man, is coming again in the glory of his Father with his angels. On that great day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Sing or pray Psalter #155.
February 29—Psalms of the Precious Secret
Read Psalm 58
Psalms 56 through 60 are five of the six psalms that include the word “michtam” in their titles. (The other is Psalm 16.) The root of the word michtam means “to stamp or engrave.” Some translate michtam as “golden,” and regard it as a heading that denotes a psalm so precious it’s worthy of being engraved. Some of Spurgeon’s contemporaries taught that michtam meant “secret” or “mystery” and signified the doctrinal depth and spiritual importance of these psalms. In response to this suggestion Spurgeon wrote, “If this be the true interpretation it well accords with the other of being precious, and when the two are put together, they make up a name which every reader will remember, and which will bring the precious subject at once to mind: The Psalm of the Precious Secret.”
The michtam psalms begin with prayer and relate trouble before ending in confident assurance. The doctrine of Psalm 58 is summarized well in Proverbs 3: 31–32: “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous.” To them he shows his covenant. And that’s a precious secret, indeed.
Sing or pray Psalter #156.
March 1—Rejoicing at Vengeance
Read Psalm 58
At first read, Psalm 58 would not be one of the psalms that I would title “Michtam” or “Golden Psalm.” In this song the psalmist first describes the wicked, and then he calls on God to execute vengeance on them. He confidently concludes, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (vv. 10–11). That kind of language seems more base and violent then it does doctrinally deep and spiritually important, doesn’t it?
Let’s stop a moment and reconsider our enemies. Satan, our adversary, desires only our misery and total destruction. When he, the great deceiver, is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, there to be tormented day and night forever, won’t you rejoice? (Rev. 20: 10). We’ll rejoice, too, when the wicked world, those who hate God and falsely accuse his people, even murder them, are judged for their unrighteousness. And what joy to be freed from our wretched sinful natures, against which we fight our whole life long! Don’t forget the last enemy, the enemy that robs a man first of his loved ones and then of his very life: death too will be destroyed. Rejoice!
Sing or pray Psalter #156.
March 2—Awake, Jehovah
Read Psalm 59
There is a vertical aspect to the psalms: they are prayers to God. There is also a horizontal aspect to the psalms: they are prayers offered with and on the behalf of fellow saints. Today as I read Psalm 59, my mind is on those saints who face grave persecution in other lands. At present, fundamentalist Muslims have nearly eradicated Christianity in the Middle East. ISIS shows no mercy to Christians, who are forced to flee or face torture, imprisonment, or murder. Many of our brethren in Africa are also persecuted by the Muslim majority. Believers in China and North Korea meet in secret for fear of their despotic Communist governments. Bloody men lie in wait for the soul of these saints, not for any transgression or sin that they have committed, but because they love the Lord Jesus Christ.
These persecuted brethren are, with us, members of Christ’s body, “and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12: 26). On their behalf we pray, “O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors”(v. 5).
Sing or pray Psalter #157.
March 3—God is My Defense
Read Psalm 59
Our small flock of hens lives in a coop in the corner of our backyard. Attached to the coop is a chicken-wire run, in which the hens spend most of their day, scratching in the dirt and dust-bathing. Last summer, a couple moved into one of the homes with a backyard adjacent to ours. Our new neighbors own two large dogs. The first morning in their new domain, those dogs flew at our chickens, barking and jumping. The hens responded in utter terror, a cloud of red feathers floating down in the wake of their fright. Now, months later, those two dogs are still in the habit of beginning their day by rushing to the far corner of the yard to assault the hens. No longer do the hens react the way they first did, however. They’ve learned that the dogs cannot cross the fence and do them any real harm.
The same is true for us because Jehovah is our defense. “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us…Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever” (Luther).
Sing or pray Psalter #157.
March 4—Our Help from Trouble
Read Psalm 60
Psalm 60 is conversation between Israel and God. Like the other michtam psalms, it begins with a lament. Israel has suffered a military defeat that has left them deeply shaken. They are distressed because they sense in their enemies’ victory that God is displeased with them. Still they turn to him in their plight, for they have this assurance: they are his beloved. Do you go to God in your trouble with that confidence?
God responds to his people in verses 6–8. Not only, he says, do I rule over all Israel: your enemies too are my servants. God’s people reply with the prayer that he will give them victory, “for vain is the help of man” (v. 11). You and I need that mighty God on our side, too, in our battles against Satan, self, and sin. Rely on his strength as you fight the fight of faith today. Thanks be to him, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15: 57).
Sing or pray Psalter #158.
March 5—A Goodly Heritage
Read Psalm 61
Last fall I attended two funerals. The first funeral was that of our neighbor, who died of cancer. Nine people attended. An Elvis song was played over the funeral home speakers, and then a Roman Catholic deacon offered a series of short intercessory prayers, pleading that God would accept her soul. After that her two daughters spoke. The first daughter consoled herself that her parents were now reunited in the afterlife. The second sobbed angrily that her mother had died too soon. Then the funeral was over. The second funeral was that of a brother in Christ who had also succumbed to the throes of cancer. Our church building overflowed with his family members and fellow saints who loved him and came to rejoice through their tears that he had been given the victory over sin and death. The service included the reading of scripture, psalm-singing, and prayer.
Brothers and sisters, the heritage of those who fear the name of the Lord is a goodly heritage. It’s a heritage that means membership in Christ’s body already in this life, and citizenship in his blessed, eternal kingdom in the life to come. Is that goodly heritage yours? Praise God!
Sing or prayer Psalter #159.
March 6—A Time to Keep Silence
Read Psalm 62
The psalmist begins Psalm 62 with a confident declaration: “Truly my soul waiteth upon God.” According to Calvin, this confession can also be translated, “Nevertheless, my soul is silent towards God.” The psalmist goes on to state the reason for his quiet confidence: God alone can save him. Why does the psalmist begin with this rather abrupt assertion? Once again his enemies plot against him, intent on his destruction. The psalmist is so troubled by their persistent attacks that in verse five he directs his soul to do the very thing that he declared he does do in verse one: “My soul, wait thou only upon God,” or “My soul, be thou silent before God.” Once again, he prompts his soul to silence with indisputable proof: God is his rock, his salvation, his defense, and his refuge. Knowing this, he has no reason but quietly to subject himself to God’s will.
What enemies do you face today? In what trials are you tempted to speak against God and to doubt his goodness to you? Be still, and know that he is God, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46).
Sing or pray Psalter #162.
March 7—A Time to Speak
Read Psalm 62
In Psalm 62 the psalmist calls on his soul to be silent before God. Later in the same psalm he charges his fellow saints, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him.” The reason he gives for speaking is the same reason he gives for being silent: “God is a refuge for us.” You and I need this admonition, too. We’re quick to worry and become bitter when we’re distressed. We should be quick to go to God in prayer.
John Calvin offers an interesting comment on Ps. 62: 8: “David is here to be considered as exposing that diseased but deeply-rooted principle in our nature, which leads us to hide our griefs, and ruminate upon them, instead of relieving ourselves at once by pouring out our prayers and complaints before God.” Have you ever seen an animal chew its cud? That animal was ruminating: chewing and swallowing, then regurgitating what it had already swallowed, only to chew it again. That’s what we’re prone to do with our griefs. Instead, must go to God with them, not trusting in self, in others, or in riches, but in him to whom power and mercy belong. He will render to every man according to his work.
Sing or pray Psalter #161.