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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.