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Psalms 72–80

April 8—A Prayer for the King

Read Psalm 72

The heading of Psalm 72 reads, “A Psalm for Solomon,” but many commentators agree that Solomon actually wrote the psalm.  The prayer is David’s, but Solomon, the son for whom he prays, pens the prayer as his father lies on his deathbed.

The psalm begins with an earnest petition, “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son.”  The remainder of the psalm details the answer to that prayer in a confident, glowing description of Solomon’s reign.  Yet it’s immediately evident that this text praises a King who is no mere human: it’s a psalm about the one who is “greater than Solomon,” our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 12:42).  Only his reign is perfectly righteous, universal, and everlasting.

Sing or pray Psalter #198.

 

April 9—A Righteous Reign

Read Psalm 72:1–7 and 2 Samuel 23:1–5

The reign of the Messiah is a righteous reign.  This King is not a respecter of persons: all of the judgements that he makes conform perfectly to God’s standards of good and evil.  In Deuteronomy 16:19 and other passages we’re warned not to pervert judgment, for we’re prone to show partiality to those from whom we think we have something to gain.  But our Lord is no respecter of persons.  Therefore, “my brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:2).

Not only does the Christ judge righteously, he also applies his righteousness to his subjects.  When the righteousness of Jesus Christ is applied to a person, that person has peace with God, for he knows that God judges him not according to his own sins, but according to the righteousness of his Son (Ps. 35:24).  Do you have peace that passes all understanding?  Then, though you mourn when wicked men rule, you will flourish forever under the rule of Jesus Christ, the true Melchisedec, King of righteousness and peace.

Sing or pray Psalter #199.

 

April 10—A Universal Reign

Read Psalm 72:8–11

The righteous rule of the Messiah knows no earthly boundary: his reign is universal.  No descendant of David ever ruled over a kingdom without borders, Jesus Christ excepted.  God has highly exalted this King, who humbled himself to the death of the cross in order to deliver his poor and needy people.  At his name of Jesus every knee should bow.  Those who do not worship him as King will lick the dust (v. 9).

Notice: those who hail this King bring him gifts.  They’re not taxed: it’s their delight to offer freely unto him.  Do you offer freely of what you’ve been given to King Jesus?  Besides the material gifts that we give Christ’s church and to the poor, we’re called to present our very bodies to him as living sacrifices; we’re called to keep his law by loving him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  These are the gifts that his people from all nations lay before his throne as they look forward to the day when the kingdoms of this world finally and fully become the kingdom of our Lord, and of Christ?

Sing or pray Psalter #194.

 

April 11—A Beneficial Reign

Read Psalm 72:12—16 and Psalm 68:18–21

The saints of God prosper under the reign of the Messiah: his is a beneficial reign.  As King, he saves the helpless from the crafty; under his rule “the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth” (Job 5:16 NKJV).  The lives of his redeemed people, whether they be red, yellow, black, or white, are precious in his sight.  Under his rule the earth brings forth abundantly: his subjects are satisfied with good things.

Psalm 68:18–21 teach that the gifts that the saints enjoy are the fruit of Christ’s ascension.  Not only does our Lord load us with material blessings, but from his throne in heaven he heaps on us the blessings of the salvation.  His presence there is a pledge that he will raise our bodies to glory too, for to God belongs the issue—that is, the escape—from death.  His reign means the end for his enemies, but in all things his people can rest assured that with body and soul, both in life and death, we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  These are blessings, according to Psalm 68:19, that he loads on us daily.

What benefits has he loaded on you today?  Bless the Lord and forget not all his benefits! (Ps. 103:2).

Sing or pray Psalter #193.

 

April 12—A Perpetual Reign

Read Psalm 72:17 and Luke 1:30–33

The reign of the Messiah is a righteous reign, a universal reign, and a beneficial reign.  But there’s even more good news!  His reign is perpetual: it lasts forever.  Psalm 72:17 puts it this way: “His name shall endure forever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun.”  What name is this, that is above all names?  The name Jesus, for he is the one who saved his people from their sins.  As the angel foretold to Mary, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”  (Luke 1:32–33).

Do you look forward to hearing the declaration recorded in Rev. 11:15, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever”?  In Jesus’ glorious, forever kingdom, God himself will dwell with his people, “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. 21:4).

Sing or pray Psalter #195.

 

April 13—Doxology

Read Psalm 72:18–19

Each of the five books of Psalms ends with a doxology.  Psalm 72 concludes Book 2 with the doxology that many of us sing at the close of our Sunday worship services.  Doxology has had an important place in the church throughout the ages: in the Old Testament, the apostolic era, and still today as the New Testament continues.

A doxology is a brief song of praise to God, one that celebrates his infinite nature.  It’s a beautiful way to think about your brief life and mine: as a doxology, a joyful, living song of praise to the sovereign, eternal God. “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being” (Ps. 146:2).  Does your life look like a doxology today?

Sing or pray Psalter #196.

 

April 14—A Parent’s “P.S.”

Read 3 John 1

When I was young I had a number of pen-pals. We’d append a multitude of postscripts to our letters: “P.S.,” “P.P.S.,” “P.P.P.S.,” we’d write, never content to conclude our letters.  You could argue that Book 2 of Psalms doesn’t end with a doxology, and in sense, you would be right: there’s a postscript tacked on to Psalm 72.  But this postscript contains a note of finality:  “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.”  What is the hope that above all was the supreme and final prayer of David’s heart?  The hope that he expressed at the very beginning of his prayer, “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. B y God’s grace David saw his petition’s sure and affirmative answer in the coming Messiah, of whom he and Solomon were only types.

What is the prayer that is nearest your heart, fellow Christian parent?  I assume that you, like me, “have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).   We can pray that prayer trusting that the one whose reign is universal and perpetually beneficial has promised to bless believers and their children in his everlasting kingdom.

Sing or pray Psalter #239.

 

April 15—God is Good to the Pure in Heart

Read Psalm 73

In God’s providence our pastor completed a series of sermons on Psalm 73 at the end of 2015.  Consequently, the content of my meditations on this psalm will originate in large part from the sermons I’ve recently heard.

Psalm 73 begins a series of eleven beautiful meditations written by Asaph, one of the Levites whom David appointed to minister with music in the tabernacle (see 1 Chron. 6:31–32, 39).  Psalm 73 begins with a declaration: “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”  It’s important for us to remember first that God is eternally good in his triune being.  In his grace, he shows his goodness to men, but not to all men, as most presume.  He is good only to Israel, that is, to those who truly are of Israel: the members of Christ’s church.  With his blood he purchased for them a new heart.  “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus declared, “for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).  They shall see him not as the judge from whom they would run in terror, but as their faithful, heavenly Friend to whom they flee with all their needs.

Sing or pray Psalter #204.

 

April 16—Aspah’s Complaint

Read Psalm 73:1–15

Asaph opens Psalm 73 with a resolute declaration: “Truly God is good to Israel.”  Nevertheless, verse two begins with the contradictory conjunction “But.”  Asaph proceeds to describe the crisis of faith that led him to make his confident introduction.  Before he affirmed the goodness of God, he had seriously doubted that God is good to the pure in heart.  He didn’t just suppose that God’s grace is common to all men: his observations led him to the conclusion that God is good to the wicked!  He noted that unbelievers abound in material wealth and mock the reality of death and of God.  When he considered their seemingly carefree lives, he determined that his daily struggle against sin and the chastening that he endured as he strove to live a righteous life was all in vain.  So great was his doubt that he writes, “My feet were almost gone; my steps had nearly slipped.”

Do you sometimes wonder whether God is truly good to you?  I’m prone to question his will for my life.  It’s at those times that, like Asaph, my focus is in the wrong place.  Instead of meditating on our faithful heavenly Father and his word, I’m fixated on earthly things and enviously comparing myself to others.  Where is your focus today?

Sing or pray Psalter #201.

 

April 17—A Lesson from Asaph

Read Malachi 2:1–9 and Psalm 73:15

We saw yesterday that Asaph was plagued with unbelief regarding God’s goodness to the righteous.  If you turned to Psalter #201 yesterday, perhaps you noted that in Asaph’s struggle leads him to cry in stanza five, “Clean hands are worthless and pure hearts are vain.”  Psalm 73 makes it clear, though, that Asaph’s complaint was never voiced: his was an internal crying.  Why didn’t he broadcast his doubt?  Because he loved the Lord’s people.  He couldn’t bear the thought of offending God’s children, of dragging others down with him as he stumbled.  So he kept his mouth shut.

What’s your tendency when you’re struggling spiritually?  Are you ready to rattle off your misgivings and sew the same seeds of discontent in your family members and fellow saints?  You and I have a lesson to learn from Asaph.  May the words of Malachi 2:6–7 ring true of us New Testament priests, just as they did of the Levite Asaph: “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me [Jehovah] in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.  For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge.”

Sing or pray Psalter #386.

 

April 18—In the Sanctuary

Read Psalm 84 and Psalm 73:16­–20

Asaph’s spiritual struggle and the recognition that his doubt could cause his fellow saints to stumble were deeply painful for him.  In his distress he enters the sanctuary, the tabernacle where he himself served, and there, in the presence of God’s people, he mediates on the deep things of Jehovah.  In the sanctuary his earthly perspective was replaced with an eternal one.  There he was given to see that that all the pleasures and the prosperity that the wicked enjoy are not dispensed upon them in love.  There he is led to consider the terrible end of the wicked, for it is appointed to all men once to die, and after that, the judgement.  Those are the same truths that you and I are given to understand when we gather with God’s saints for public worship and attend to the preaching of his word.  The Christian faith is not driven by emotion or mysticism: it’s a certain knowledge that requires the use of one’s mind in careful, Spirit-led application of God’s word.  So, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:23–25).

Do you long to be found in the blessed sanctuary of the Lord each sabbath day?

Sing or pray Psalter #226.

 

April 19—God’s Means of Grace

Read Psalm 63

How can it be that God ministers to his people through such ordinary means as the preaching and the sacraments?  Here’s a quotation from the 19th century about God’s means of grace:

In bygone days when God’s covenant people sought to strengthen their piety, to sharpen their effectual intercessions, and give passion to their supplications, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.  When intent upon seeking the Lord God’s guidance in difficult after-times, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.  When they were wont to express grief—whether over the consequences of their own sins or the sins of others—they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.  When they sought deliverance or protection in times of trouble, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.  When they desired to express repentance, covenant renewal, and a return to the fold of faith, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting.  Such is the call upon all who would name the Name of Jesus. Such is the ordinary Christian life (Thomas Chalmers).

Sing or pray Psalter #325.

 

April 20—A Light in the Dark

Read John 14

Asaph’s earthly perspective is replaced with an eternal point of view when he enters the sanctuary.  That same blessing is granted us too, when we gather in the Lord’s house each sabbath day to worship him in spirit and in truth.  But what about those of God’s saints who are unable to attend public worship?  Perhaps you are prevented by illness or age.  Maybe you’re the weary mother of a needy newborn or an anxious father tending a sick child.  What about those saints who are unable to assemble because they are confined to a hospital or hospice bed, are persecuted by their government, or are imprisoned for their faith?  They also need to see that the trials they endure are working an eternal weight of glory of them and that they are foolish to envy unbelievers.

They too enter the sanctuary as God graciously ministers to them through his word—whether that word be held in their hand, their heart, or whether it comes through the mouths or pens of fellow saints—and teaches them through the comforting presence of his Holy Spirit.  Even in the darkest of places, the entrance of God’s word gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple (Ps. 119:130).

Sing or pray Psalter #201.

 

April 21­—Asaph’s Repentance

Read Psalm 32 and Psalm 73:22–23

The knowledge that Asaph acquires in the sanctuary bears fruit.  He’s not like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and then walks away, promptly forgetting what he has just seen.  No, he’s not merely a hearer of the word: he’s a doer.  His renewed understanding drives him to his knees in heartfelt repentance.  He grieves over his sins, and he names them: foolishness and ignorance.  “I was like a beast before thee,” he confesses.

Repentance must be our response too, when we’re confronted with the word of God.  We’re quick to rattle off the generic line, “Forgive my sins,” but true repentance is proceeded by careful self-examination and fueled by sincere contrition.  It’s also followed by fruit, fruit that is meet for repentance; that is, fruit that is in keeping with that repentance.  What fruit is the greatest evidence of sin repented of and forgiven?  Sin forsaken.

Sing or pray #84.

 

April 22—Nevertheless

Read Psalm 37 and Psalm 73:23

We left Asaph yesterday on his knees.  In shame he acknowledges the sinfulness of his sin, but then he remembers, “Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.”  That conjunction “nevertheless” testifies to our Father’s faithfulness in the light of our unfaithfulness.  What a beautiful, comforting, wonderful truth!  Though we forget God and wander, even approaching the edge of a cliff, as Asaph did, all the while our heavenly Father has us by the hand.  He keeps us from stumbling so far that we would fall over the edge and be lost.

What temptations confront you today?  Do discontent, envy, or despair threaten to disarm you?  This is God’s word to you: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10)  Your steps, like Asaph’s, are “ordered by the Lord.”  Of him in whom God delights Psalm 37:24 says, “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”

Sing or pray Psalter #101.

 

April 23—Guided to Glory

Read Psalm 73:21–28

Asaph had been determined to choose his own path, but he now knows that his way leads to destruction.  He has turned to God, who grasps his right hand, in repentance, and now he willingly submits to his Father’s guidance, resting assured that Jehovah will continue to guide him in the future.  How would God guide him?  By his word and Holy Spirit; in his providence; and to glory.

So our heavenly Father guides you and me.  Do you believe that if you obey his word you will safely arrive at your heavenly destination?  Such a life requires childlike trust, for though we catch glimpses of glory and though we may be able to discern where to place our next step, we cannot see all the valleys that lie ahead.  We aren’t privy to the mountains we will have to climb.  We face “One day at a time, with its failures and fears, / With its hurts and mistakes, with its weakness and tears, / With its portion of pain and its burden of care; / One day at a time we must meet and must bear… / Not yesterday’s load we are called on to bear, / Nor the morrow’s uncertain and shadowy care; / Why should we look forward or back with dismay? / Our needs, as our mercies, are but for the day…” (Annie Johnson Flint).

Sing or pray Psalter #202.

 

April 24—Asaph’s Chief Desire

Read Psalm 42 and Psalm 73:25–26

Asaph once envied the wicked, nearly falling from the faith, but renewed understanding, which God gave him in the sanctuary, led him to heartfelt repentance.  He rises to even greater spiritual heights, however, with this declaration: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (v.25).  Asaph had viewed the abundant material possessions of the ungodly as evidence of God’s favor toward them.  Now he confesses that there is no thing or pleasure that he desires more than God.  Notice: Asaph doesn’t desire God because of the gifts that he gives.  He delights in God himself, and, like a deer pants for streams of water, he longs to know God more.  Even though he knows his flesh and heart will fail, he rejoices that God will be his portion forever.  Again, notice: he doesn’t long for heaven primarily because there he’ll be freed from sorrow or reunited with his loved ones; no, he’s already affirmed that there is nothing in heaven, either, that he desires more than God.

Are you able to make that godly confession with Asaph?  Like him, you and I must turn away from the glitter to the true gold: our chief desire must be God himself.  (Spurgeon).

Sing or pray Psalter #203.

 

April 25­—Draw Near to God

Read Psalm 73

Asaph has confessed that he desires God more than anything on earth or in heaven.  He recognizes that the wicked are far from God; in fact, he’s so certain of their impending destruction that he speaks of it in the past tense.  In contrast, he desires to be near God because he recognizes that only Jehovah can fill the God-shaped void in his—and in every—human heart.  He confesses, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (v. 28).  If you and I desire God as Asaph did, we too must actively and intentionally draw near to him.  How do we draw near to him?  We do so on the sabbath by joining our fellow saints in public worship.  We do so throughout the week by daily meditating on his word and regularly bowing before him in prayer.  No matter how crazy your day, no matter how long my “to-do” list, there is nothing more important that we must do.

Drawing near to God produces fruit: one who is near to Jehovah cannot but speak the things that he has seen and heard.  We were created and called for that purpose: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise” (Isa. 43:21).  Will you draw near him and declare his works today?

Sing or pray Psalter #203.

 

April 26—The Thief of Joy

Read James 3

What sin triggered Asaph’s stumble in Psalm 73?  Envy.  Envy has its roots in comparison.  A child is delighted with his slice of cake until he notices that his sister’s portion appears slightly larger.  A woman is content with her clothing until she notices that the woman in the adjacent pew is wearing a new dress.   The next time you begin comparing yourself with someone else or your lot in life with that of another, remember: comparison is “the thief of joy,” and following close on its heels is its deadly cohort, envy.   James 3:16 reads, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”  Proverbs 14:30 teaches that envy makes one’s bones rot.  So serious is the sin of envy that Galatians 5:21 warns that those who envy will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

At its heart, envy is idolatry, the worship of self or some other object that one desires.  How can we safeguard against envy?  By delighting ourselves in the Lord, who, like a jealous husband, covets all of our affection (see Psalm 37).  By considering others better than self (Phil. 2:3).  By praying for those whom we envy, remembering our calling to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Love does not envy (1 Cor. 13:4).

Sing or pray Psalter 290:1–5.

 

April 26—The God Who Remembers His Covenant

Read Psalm 74

A “maschil” is a psalm of instruction.  What is the spiritual lesson that Asaph would have us learn in Psalm 74?  He first describes Israel’s dismal and desperate condition.  It seems as if Jehovah has deserted his people: their enemies plunder the land and have destroyed the temple and the synagogues, yet God remains silent.  No prophet brings his word.  Still, Asaph confesses that God, who rules over all creation and who brought his people out of the bondage of Egypt, is his king.  Asaph knows that the steadfast love of the Lord toward the sheep of his pasture is unchanging: he will be faithful to his covenant.  He knows too God’s jealousy for his own glory: Jehovah’s cause will prevail.

What sins or sorrows overwhelm you today?  Do you wonder if God’s thoughts toward you are not thoughts of peace, but thoughts of evil?  Asaph teaches us how to pray to our Father when we are overcome.  We must plead with him not on the basis of anything we have done, but on the basis of his faithful covenant promises.  He has redeemed us from bondage with the precious blood of his Son, and he will certainly bring the good work that he’s begun in us to completion.

Sing or pray Psalter #205.

 

April 27—Two Cups

Read Psalm 75

Psalm 75 begins with this confident exclamation: “Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.”  To that praise our Lord responds, “When I shall receive the congregation, I will judge uprightly.”  The Judge of all the earth warns the wicked what their portion will be: “His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty” (Job. 21:20). “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…” (Rev. 14:10–11b).

The terrible judgement of God is a reality that, though sobering, the righteous celebrate with thanksgiving.  How can that be?  Because we know that the dregs of the cup that we deserve to drink have been drained by our Savior.  Instead of being handed the steaming cup of God’s wrath, we’ve been given a cup that overflows with the sweetest of blessings.

Sing or pray Psalter #206.

 

April 28—Our Indwelling King and Defender

Read Psalm 76

Psalm 76 describes God as the mighty sovereign and warrior who dwells among his people, defending them from all their enemies.  Those who persecute them incite his wrath; not one of them will stand in his sight.  This king is sovereign among his people, but he also governs the affairs of ungodly men.  He uses even the raging of the wicked to accomplish his purposes.  He will be glorified, and the meek will inherit the earth and delight themselves in abundant peace.

The same God who made his dwelling place in Jerusalem dwells in our hearts by his Holy Spirit.  He causes us to humbly submit to his righteous rule, and he defends us as we wage war against the devil, the world, and our own sinful selves.  Is Jehovah your king and defender?  Then, “Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared” (v. 11).

Sing or pray Psalter #207.

 

April 29—He’s Still Working on Me

Read Psalm 77:1–9

In Psalm 73 Asaph recounts a serious spiritual struggle, at the end of which he declares that God is good to the pure in heart, he desires God, and he expresses his intent to draw near to him.  In Psalm 77, Asaph is once again wrestling 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?

There’s comfort for us here, brothers and sisters.  How often don’t you and I overcome one temptation or trial, only to meet with—and sometimes succumb to—a similar foe on the following day?  That’s the way of the Christian life:  until we reach heaven, we never “fully arrive.”  Only there will all of God’s saints reach the spiritual stature and maturity that’s measured by Christ’s fullness (Eph. 4:13).  Until then, it’s as my children sometimes sing: “He’s still working on me / To make me what I ought to be. / It took him just a week to make the moon and stars, / The sun and the earth, and Jupiter and Mars / How loving and patient he must be / He’s still working on me.”

Sing or pray Psalter #211.

 

April 30—Nothing But the Blood

Read Psalm 77

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 (v. 14–15).  The other day I heard a well-known theologian speculate about that great first Passover night.  He imagined two Israelite men talking.  One was riddled with doubt and fear: he had obeyed God’s commands, slaying the lamb and covering the doorposts of his house with its blood, yet still he fretted: the angel of death was coming that night!  His fellow Hebrew, on the other hand, was quiet and confident: he and his family had also obeyed Jehovah’s word through Moses, and he was certain that all the good promised God’s people would come to pass.  Which of these men, the theologian asked, lost his firstborn son that night?

The answer, of course, is neither.  Both were covered by the blood of the Lamb.  That was Asaph’s comfort, and it’s our assurance, too, when our faith is weak: “This is all my hope and peace, / Nothing but the blood of Jesus; / This is all my righteousness, / Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  All those covered with his blood can rest assured that not one thing of all the good things which the Lord has spoken concerning them will fail (Josh. 23:14).

Sing or pray Psalter #212.

 

May 1—Instruction with a Purpose

Read Psalm 78:1–8

After he brought his people out of the bondage of Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai.  There he revealed himself as the God who visits the iniquities of those who hate him in their children to the third and fourth generation, but keeps his covenant with those who love him and their children to a thousand generations.  God uses means to maintain that covenant promise.  One means is the faithful parental instruction of one’s children.  Psalm 78 recounts Israel’s history from the Red Sea to the reign of David.  The psalm is not storytelling for the purpose of entertaining.  It is deliberate, diligent instruction with this goal: “That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (v. 7).

Parents, do you instruct your children with that lofty goal in the forefront of your mind?  We want our children to learn their catechism lessons and memory verses well, of course, but we should spend as much time applying their lessons to their lives as we do making sure they get every word right.  Children and young people, don’t learn your Bible or catechism lessons just to get a good grade.  Remember: the history of God’s people was recorded for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:11).

Sing or pray Psalter #215.

 

May 2—An Unfaithful People

Read Psalm 78:9–54

The recurring negative theme of Psalm 78 is summarized in verses 10–11.  The Israelites did not keep God’s covenant, and they refused to walk according to his law.  Repeatedly they forgot his works and wonders.  Notice: they acknowledged God as their rock and their redeemer with their mouths, but God did not consider such lip service true worship, but flattery and deceit.  Like those to whom Isaiah prophesied and the Pharisees whom Christ condemned, they drew near to God with their mouth and honored him with their lips, but their heart was far from him (see Isa. 29:13 and Matt. 15:8).  They were an unfaithful people.

When we read of all the works that God performed on the Israelites’ behalf, we might wonder how they could so quickly forget such miracles and shake our heads at their unbelief.  Their negative example must elicit self-examination.  The true worshippers of God worship him in spirit and in truth.  What wonders has God worked in your life?  Recall his goodness to you, and worship him from your heart.

Sing or pray Psalter #213:1–9.

 

May 3—Infidelity and Integrity

Read Psalm 78:55–72

Do you know what in infidel is?  An infidel is a person of another religion.  As a Christian, you would designate a Muslim an infidel.  Interestingly, the word “infidelity” is also used to refer to marital unfaithfulness.    Throughout the Bible God calls unbelief adultery—infidelity.  When we sin against him, we demonstrate that we worship another god: the god of pleasure, perhaps, or the god of self.  But—praise him!—our God is faithful.  While we are characterized by infidelity, he is a God of integrity.  One who has integrity is one who is whole and undivided; he or she exhibits unity of purpose and action.  That’s our God.  “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).  So, in spite of Israel’s infidelity, again and again, “He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath” (v. 38).  How thankful we can be that we serve a God of integrity!

We’re called to imitate our heavenly Father (Eph. 5:1).  Which characterizes you: spiritual infidelity or integrity?

Sing or pray Psalter #213:10–15.

 

May 4—Purge Me

Read Psalm 79 and Jeremiah 16:1–13

The setting of Psalm 79 is a terrible one indeed.  The heathen have ransacked God’s temple.  The Israelites’ carcasses are strewn about the city, food for birds and wild animals.  The streets run with blood.  You might expect the prayer of God’s people that follows the description of this grim scene to be exclusively one for deliverance from the cruel enemies who afflict them, but it’s not.  Listen: “O remember not against us former iniquities” (v. 7) and “purge away our sins” (v. 8).  Jeremiah had repeatedly foretold of this sad day; they knew that the havoc brought upon them by their enemies came as just judgement for their own wickedness.

For what do you pray when you are afflicted?  We ought to be “more earnest in prayer for the removal of our sins than the removal of our afflictions” (Matthew Henry).  The word purge implies an abrupt, often violent cleansing or removal of sin.  Do you so hate the sin in your heart that you’re willing to undergo even more chastening to have it removed?

Sing or pray Psalter #217.

 

May 5—The Fowls’ Final Feast

Read Psalm 79 and Jeremiah 16:17–21

The picture of the fowls feasting on the flesh of the Israelites—a scene that’s foretold four times in the book of Jeremiah—is gory one.  But in response to the prayer of his people that he purge them and deliver them—a prayer based not on their own merit, but on the glory of his name—God pours out his wrath upon the heathen.  Their punishment is just: not only have they shed the blood of the saints, but they also do not own Jehovah as God, and they have not called on his name (vv. 10 and 6).

How does the Bible describe the end of the wicked?  As another feast for the birds.  According to Revelation 19:11–21, when our Savior, the one named Faithful and True, comes in righteousness to judge the earth, he will call the fowls of heaven to come “to the supper of the great God.”  For that supper, he will have slain those who worshipped the image of the beast with the sword of the word of God, and he will call the fowls to gorge themselves on their flesh.  That’s the just judgement that will fall on all those who persecute saints and prophets.

Sing or pray Psalter #216.

 

May 6—Shine on Us

Read Psalm 80: 1–7

Once again God’s people are in a desperate state.  In fact, they’re so desperate that they say that all they have to eat or drink are their own tears.  Their sad state is the occasion of their enemies’ mockery, but worst of all, the God who had vowed to hear them when they humbled themselves and prayed (see 2 Chr. 7:14), seems to be angry with their prayers and doesn’t answer them.  Perhaps the Israelites didn’t receive an answer to their prayers because they were driven by impure motives: they “asked amiss” (James 4:3).  Perhaps God delayed his response to their prayers to cause them to grow in patience (Rom. 5:3).  Whatever the case, there’s a lesson for us in these verses.  Though it seems God is angry with their prayers, his people do not cease to pray.  In these seven verses alone they come twice with the same prayer: “Turn us again, O God, [that is, “restore us”] and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”  They long to be restored to fellowship with their Great Shepherd; they know that they will have peace only when his face shines on them (Num. 6:24–26).

Our Lord Jesus taught that we “ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  Is that the persistence with which you come before the Shepherd of your soul?

Sing or pray Psalter #221.

 

May 7—God’s Vine

Read Psalm 80

On what ground do God’s people base their persistent prayers?  On his own work of redemption, a truth that we also considered only one week ago.  In Psalm 80 God’s people remind him that they are the vine that he saved from Egypt and planted in the cleared ground of Canaan.  Once the vine flourished, but now the wicked plunder it.  God’s people plead with him to visit his vineyard once again.  They plead on the basis of the promised Messiah, to whom they refer as “the branch” and “the son of man” that God has made strong for himself (v. 15 and 17).

That branch is the root that grew out of dry ground; the shoot that sprang out of the stump of Jesse; the vine of whom Jehovah is the husbandman; the one in whom we must also be found if we are to bring forth fruit to God’s praise.  He said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:5 and 7).

Sing or pray Psalter #220.