April 8—May 7
April 8—“I am Prayer”
Read Psalm 109
How do we reconcile Scripture’s command to love our enemies with Psalm 109’s seemingly vindictive tone? Notice, David does love these wicked, but they return evil for his good and hatred for his love (vv. 4–5). Likewise, our enemies must not be people whom we hate, “but him who entertains enmity towards us” (Calvin). Nor does David seek to revenge their unmerited and malicious hatred. He brings his case to Jehovah in prayer and leaves the matter there (Rom. 12:19). Psalm 109:4b can be read, “But I am prayer.” Do we follow his example?
David first prays about his enemies in the plural. Beginning at verse 6, he prays in the singular, either focusing on them individually or singling out their leader. Some commentators suggest that the explicit petitions he prays correspond to the hate-filled words with which they surrounded him (see v. 3 and Deut. 19:16–21). Perhaps we’re uncomfortable reading these petitions because our prayers tend to be so very general. Note, David simply prays—and his prayer is the inspired prayer of Christ!—that God will chastise or judge these wicked men with the natural fruits of their sinful walk. These are the wages—the reward—that Jehovah pays sinners (v. 20). Do we pray that he will justly recompense the unrepentant sinners whom we know?
Sing or pray Psalter #300.
April 9—“Priestly King, Enthroned Forever”
Read Psalm 110
Psalm 110 teaches that Jesus Christ is not only God’s anointed King: he is God’s anointed Priest-King. Other passages make clear that he is also ordained and anointed “to be our chief Prophet and Teacher” (HC, LD 12). Still more: he is God. As Jesus noted to the Pharisees, David refers to his promised Son as “my Lord.” He didn’t look only for a king that would sit on his earthly throne; he prophesied of the divine King who would rule from God’s right hand.
Verse 3 describes Christ’s people this way: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness…” Do we obey King Jesus willingly? Other translations render “the beauties of holiness” as “in holy garments” or “in holy array.” The holiness of Christ’s subjects is not inherent in themselves: they’ve been clothed with it. Our garments distinguish us as those who are consecrated to his service. As his friend-servants, we’re called to confess his name, present ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to him, fight against sin and Satan in this life, and look forward to the day when we will reign with him eternally over all creatures.
Sing or pray Psalter #302.
April 10—Fruitful Age
Read 1 Chronicles 23
David is “old and full of days.” Still he numbers and organizes the Levites. This was no small feat, for the tribe of Levi had grown more than four-fold, from 8,580 to 38,000, a proportional increase greater than any other tribe (see Num. 4:48). Joab had not numbered the Levites previously (1 Chron. 21:6); David counted them now not in pride, but with purpose. We learned in Numbers that the Levites did not begin to serve in the tabernacle until age 25 and that they were not responsible for carrying the tabernacle and its furnishings until age 30. Now David employs them from age 20, for God had given them rest from the laborious task of transporting the tabernacle (1 Chron. 23:24–27).
David’s dearest desire had been to build God’s temple, and he had diligently amassed materials to that end. Jehovah denied him that privilege, but David did not, “like so many peevish persons when their wills are crossed, mope and fret, and then lose all interest in the Lord’s service; but readily acquiesced in God’s will and continued his preparation…Advancing age and increasing infirmities quickened him to increased diligence and effort…Those who are mature and experienced should consider the younger ones who are to follow, and furnish all the help they can to make the work of God as easy as possible for them” (Pink).
Sing or pray Psalter #350.
April 11—For the Work of Ministry
Read 1 Chronicles 24
David organizes the descendants of Aaron in 1 Chronicles 24. These were the priests who would preside over the affairs of the sanctuary in turn. Their rotation was assigned by lot, that the whole disposing thereof might be of the Lord (Prov. 16:33). It’s noted that there were 16 chief men in Eleazar’s line, while Ithamar’s family had only eight. This makes sense, since the house of Eli, which God had judged for their iniquity, descended from Ithamar.
Still today, the rule and worship of the church requires order and structure. That order is determined by King Jesus through his word and Spirit. And still today our Lord assigns to each member of the body certain gifts and a specific place, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). Do each of us cheerfully serve in the place we’ve been given?
Sing or pray Psalter #368.
April 12—Sing unto Him
Read 1 Chronicles 25
1 Chronicles 25 records David’s organization of the Levite singers and instrumentalists. This new office was dear to the heart of the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1). These men were appointed to “prophesy.” Likewise, we’re appointed to praise and confess the name of our God. Let’s edify one another and glorify our God also in song! The Levities appointed to this position were privileged, yet note: their role is referred to as a service, and they, workmen. Matthew Henry comments that this “intimates that it is our duty to make a business of [praising God]…and that, in our present state of corruption and infirmity, it will not be done as it should be done without labour and struggle.”
Verses 3 and 6 emphasize that these things were done according to the order of the king. That’s the principle that regulates our worship too. Those same verses emphasize that the fathers presided in this service, their children learning under their hands. Are we faithful to train our children in this service?
Sing or pray Psalter #289:1–4.
April 13—Put on Humility
Read Psalm 131 and 138
(In a couple of weeks we will consider Psalm 119. I’d like to devote several days to that lengthy psalm, so, with that in mind, we will study several of this month’s shorter psalms in pairs.)
Psalm 131 is humble psalm that extols that very virtue: humility. David sings that his heart, his eyes, and his mind are not lifted up in pride. He compares his humble state to that of a toddler, who, now weaned, rests serenely in his mother’s arms. Humility frees him from anxiety, restlessness, and despair: he is content to lean on Jehovah. Humility enables him to trust that “that all things work together for good to them that love God,” and to exhort his fellow saints, “Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and forever.”
In Psalm 138, David gives thankful praise to Jehovah. He had cried to Jehovah, and Jehovah had answered him that very day, strengthening him with strength in his soul. Though king, David recognizes that he is but one king of many on the earth, and that God is King over all. Though God is great, he regards the lowly, or humble. Those who are proud he knows only at a distance. Do you or I presently lack the experience of God’s nearness? Perhaps our pride is to blame.
Sing or pray Psalter #381.
April 14—Our Omniscient, Omnipresent Owner
Read Psalm 139
David celebrates Jehovah’s omniscience in Psalm 139:1–6. Our God searches, knows, understands, and surrounds his people. This knowledge doesn’t frighten David: it’s wonderful to him (v. 6), for Jehovah is his friend. Not only is he an omniscient God, he is also omnipresent. In verse 7 David asks, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” He answers his own question in verses 8–12, delighting in the reality that escape from Jehovah is an impossibility. This all-knowing, everywhere-present God also owns David, for he has created him and redeemed him. David traces his life from conception (v. 13) to resurrection (“when I awake,” v. 18). He also considers that Jehovah is Lord of his entire being, from his emotions (“reins,” v. 13) to his physical frame.
This meditation compels David to respond in hatred to those who speak lies about God. “The Bible is outraged by sins of speech;” are we characterized by “the proper radicalism of Psalm 139?” (Motyer). The psalm, which began with Jehovah’s searching, comes full circle when David prays, “Search me…and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv. 23–24).
Sing or pray Psalter #384.
April 15—Threefold Distress, Threefold Discipline
Read Psalm 143
A troubled David again appeals to Jehovah in Psalm 143. Before he presents his case against his enemy, he admits his own guilt (v. 2). If David himself is guilty, on what grounds does he plead? On the basis of Jehovah’s faithfulness and righteousness (v. 1). David’s case against his enemy is threefold. First, the enemy has persecuted his soul, intent on his life. Second, the enemy has smitten him “down to the ground”: his threats and slander have crushed David’s spirit. Third, he has made David to “dwell in darkness.” David cannot find any comfort or light. All of this he presents to the Judge.
David regains a right perspective when he exercises three spiritual disciplines (v. 5). First, he remembers the days of old. How do his current troubles compare with trials he has faced in the past? Second, he meditates on all Jehovah’s works. He cannot reflect on former days without acknowledging God’s gracious interpositions on his behalf. Third, he muses on those works. His meditation moves him to lift his hands and praise God in song (verse 6 ends with the word “Selah,” which denotes a musical interlude). Let’s follow his example of prayer, meditation, and praise when we lack a proper spiritual perspective.
Sing or pray Psalter #389:1–3.
April 16—Blessed God, Blessed People
Read Psalm 144
Psalm 144 begins with a list of 10 of Jehovah’s glories. Its opening verses are peppered with “my” and “I,” but David switches to the plural pronoun “our” in the latter verses, praying on behalf of all God’s people. David’s faith is personal, yet he recognizes that God saves him as a member of a body. On behalf of that body, David makes an urgent, repeated request: “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children…” (vv. 7–8,11). David is requesting that Jehovah will purge his people of the unbelievers that dwell among them.
What makes that petition so very urgent? David knows that the antithesis is essential to the prosperity of God’s people. He prays that Jehovah will rid Israel of the unbelievers who dwell among them so that their covenant children may thrive. He desires sons like “plants grown up in their youth,” and likens Israel’s daughters to corner pillars that support and beautify a structure. Do we desire that the children of the church prosper spiritually? Then, for the sake of their welfare, we must be willing to pray, “Rid me…from…strange children,” even when those strange children are our own family members or friends.
Sing or pray Psalter #393.
April 17—An Unsearchable Greatness
Read Psalm 145
Like Psalms 25 and 34, Psalm 145 is originally an alphabetical acrostic. This style of poetry likely aided God’s people in memorization, but it also suggested a totality of the treatment of its subject, similar to our expression “from A to Z.” Interestingly, one letter of the Hebrew alphabet—the letter “nun”—is absent from Ps. 145. Perhaps that verse was lost in translation. More likely, David intentionally excluded it to suggest the infinite, incomprehensible glory of God. “His greatness is unsearchable” (v. 3b). Though we will never be able to wrap our minds around Jehovah’s glory, we may not shrink back from studying his self-revelation. The Christian faith requires “a certain knowledge”; repudiates willing ignorance; engages the renewed mind.
Psalm 145:9 reads, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Does that verse teach common grace? No. Jehovah is indeed “a gracious God” (Jonah 4:2). But he is also “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps. 145:17), near only “to all that call upon him in truth” (v. 18). He preserves only “all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy” (v. 20).
Sing or pray Psalter #394.
April 18—Doorkeepers, Treasurers, Judges
Read 1 Chronicles 26
In 1 Chronicles 26 David appoints 4,000 porters, 24,000 treasurers, and 6,000 officers and judges from among the Levites. The porters’ duty was to guard the temple entrances, encouraging those who were timorous and excluding strangers, unclean, thieves, and enemies of God. Those who kept the temple treasures saw to the stores of flour, wine, oil, salt, and fuel, attended the priests with the sacrifices, readied the meat and drink offerings, cleaned the vessels, utensils, and sacred garments, and ensured that everything was in its place, “that the service might be performed both with expedition and with exactness” (Matthew Henry). The officers and judges were stationed throughout the kingdom and assisted the princes of every tribe with the administration of justice.
Compared to the priests, these men held humble positions, but God called and equipped them. He describes them as “mighty men of valour” (v. 6, 30–32), “strong men” (v. 7), “able men” (v. 8), and “wise” (v. 14). Do you and I accept our God-assigned places with the attitude that, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness”? (Ps. 84:10).
Sing or pray Psalter #228.
April 19—Counsellors and Companions
Read 1 Chronicles 27
We’ve been considering David’s divisions of the Levities. Now, in 1 Chronicles 27:1–15, we turn to the military divisions that David assigned. Twelve captains were each assigned a second-in-command and 24,000 men. Each group of 24,000 served the kingdom one month out of the year; the remainder of the year they attended to their own labors and affairs. Verses 16–22 name the civil rulers of each tribe (Gad and Asher are not listed. They could have been joined with another tribe, or their records may have been lost). Verses 23–24 briefly note David’s command to number the people, a command which displeased the Lord and brought judgment upon the people. The remaining verses list the names of the stewards of David’s property and the officers of his court.
Among the men who attended to David was his uncle, “a counselor, a wise man, and a scribe” (v. 32). This man knew the Scriptures. Interestingly, the cunning Ahithophel is listed as David’s counselor, but Hushai is named as his companion. Are Jehovah’s testimonies our delight and our counselors? Are our companions those that fear him? (Ps. 119:63).
Sing or pray Psalter #323.
April 20—The King Anointed
Read 1 Kings 1
David is nearing the end of his earthly sojourn. His servants pursue an ill-advised plan for his comfort: Abishag. “If the danger of [youth] is to disdain the advice of seniors and be too self-willed, the infirmities of [old age] place them more in the power of their juniors, and they are apt to yield to arrangements which their consciences condemn” (Pink). Jehovah’s displeasure becomes readily clear. “It is true that [Adonijah’s rebellion] was the fruit of his earlier laxity in ruling his children…yet the time when this impious insubordination occurred leaves us in no doubt that it is to be regarded as a divine chastening…” (Ibid).
Adonijah, David’s oldest living son, who had never been denied anything by his father, attempts to usurp the throne. Fellow parents, those who refuse to discipline their children “are only preparing a rod for their own backs” (Ibid). Adonijah is joined by opportunistic Joab and Abiathar. Bathsheba and Nathan establish the matter before David, who acts unhesitatingly. Jehovah had been faithful to him; he would also be faithful to his vow that Solomon would reign. Even before Adonijah’s celebration ends, Jerusalem rejoices as Solomon, chosen to rule before he was born (1 Chron. 22:9), comes riding upon a mule and is anointed king.
Sing or pray Psalter #4.
April 21—The Kingdom Established
Read 1 Kings 2
David charges Solomon to keep Jehovah’s law in 1 Kings 2. Jehovah swore in truth: David’s Son would sit upon the throne. But the temporal kingdom was contingent on the conduct of David’s descendants. We know the sad sequel: soon the ten tribes would be taken away because of Solomon’s idolatry. “Was then the divine purpose thwarted? No indeed…the counsels of God are made good in the Second Man…in Him the kingdom of God is spiritually realized” (Pink).
In accordance with David’s commands, Solomon administers justice to Joab for the willful murders of Abner and Amasa (see Lev. 24:17). Solomon removes Abiathar from the office of priest for joining with Adonijah, and, when Shimei fails the test of his integrity, has him executed as well. But first, Adonijah, still pining after the throne (v. 15), is put to death. Though David had not “known” Abishag, she had the status of a concubine. Like his brother Absalom, Adonijah knew that taking the concubines of the king implied a right to the throne (see 2 Sam. 16:20–23). At the very least, he intended to disturb his younger brother’s infant rule, and he is executed for his duplicity.
Sing or pray Psalter #367.
April 22—Constancy and Courage
Read 1 Chronicles 28
In 1 Chronicles 28 David formally charges the representatives of Israel and his son Solomon publicly to know God and to keep his commandments. How those men must have paid attention when their beloved—yet old and sickly—king rose to his feet and addressed them as, “My brethren.” David encouraged Solomon in his high, holy calling to build Jehovah’s house. First, he gave him a pattern of the temple. Second, he gifted him with gold and silver for the precious furnishings of the temple. Third, and perhaps most importantly, he assured him of Jehovah’s aid and reminded him that the priests, Levites, princes, and “all the people” would be at wholly at his command. Solomon typified our Lord Jesus Christ, the chosen Son, the builder of the house of God and the one whose kingdom is established forever.
Along with Solomon, we need to be exhorted to the attributes of constancy and courage. Are we faithful, willing servants of King Jesus? And do we find in him the strength we need to face the trials and temptations that confront us each day?
Sing or pray Psalter #45.
April 23—All Things are Thine
Read 1 Chronicles 29
David has charged Solomon and the princes of Israel. Now he addresses the congregation before he dies. He reminds them that Solomon is young—he was not yet twenty—to assume the heavy responsibilities of ruling the kingdom and building the temple. David also reminds the people how he made the house of Jehovah his care and encourages them to do the same. The people respond by giving willingly, and David gratefully, humbly blesses Jehovah for their eager, abundant offering. Before the people he confesses, “All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (v. 14). Is that the attitude with which we offer ourselves and our possessions to our God?
The people then join David in corporate worship, and on that high note, the reign of David ends. “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers…” (Acts 13:36) “May we too be enabled to serve our generation as faithfully as David did his” (Pink).
Sing or pray Psalter #383.
April 24—Except the Lord
Read Psalm 127
The heading of Psalm 127 attributes its authorship to Solomon. Perhaps he penned this song early in his reign, before his own deplorable family life led to his idolatry. It’s likely he has two houses in mind in verse 1. First, the building of God’s temple weighs heavily on his mind, but the encouragement of his father stills rings in his ears, too: “Fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Ch. 28:20). The second house is the house of David, now established in him (see 2 Sam. 7:11–16). Though tempted to anxiety, Solomon comforted himself with the promise of Jehovah’s provision (v. 2). Solomon’s personal name was Jedidiah, “Jehovah’s Beloved” (2 Sam. 12:24–25).
Although fruitful labor, watching, and rest require human activity, their outcome is God’s gift. It is likewise with children. “Babies cannot be conceived and born without the human activity of procreation, but the Bible insists, it is not sexual intercourse as such that leads to conception. Only God can ‘open the womb’” (Motyer). Children are an inheritance—a free gift, not a payment.
Sing or pray Psalter #359.
April 25—Works Remembered
Read Psalm 111 and 112
Psalm 111 is a communal celebration of Jehovah’s wonderful works. His works are great, honorable, glorious, enduring, right, and just. They are the meditations of the godly and the source of their delight. The font of these works is a God who is himself grace and compassion. He gives his people all that they need. He makes them to know his mighty deeds, for by themselves they would be blind to his works. Among the greatest of his works is that which the psalmist mentions twice: he is faithful to his covenant.
Psalm 111 teaches that not only is Jehovah’s covenant everlasting: his praise and his commandments also endure forever. Psalm 112:1 declares that the person who delights in those commandments is blessed. His children will be mighty upon the earth, and wealth and riches will fill his house (vv. 2–3). That’s not always the believer’s experience in this life, however, for the psalm speaks of the spiritual riches that belong to the godly and their children. But already in this life the righteous bear the image of their heavenly Father. Psalm 111 notes that Jehovah is gracious and full of compassion: so are the upright (Ps. 112:4–5).
Sing or pray Psalter #305.
April 26—Who is Like our God?
Read Psalm 113 and 114
Psalm 113–118 comprise the Hallel psalms, songs of praise that were sung at Passover. Psalm 113 can be divided into three sections. In verses 1–3 Jehovah’s people bless his name, “the compendium of who and what he is” (Motyer). In verses 4–6 they consider Jehovah’s exaltation and self-humbling. He is so great that he not only humbles himself to behold the things of earth: he condescends even to behold the things of heaven! Yet this exalted God takes thought for the poor and vulnerable; he is sovereign in both the affairs of the state and the home (vv. 7–9).
Psalm 114 is a poetic celebration of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, a poetic celebration of our redemption! It affirms the principles set forth in Psalm 113. The God who is sovereign over all things, including the creation, identified himself with the poor and transformed his people’s identity from slaves to victors. In his presence the Red Sea fled, the Jordan River turned back, the mountains and hills skipped, and the earth trembled. This God cared for his people as they journeyed through the wilderness. He provides for us on our pilgrimage to heaven, too.
Sing or pray Psalter #306.
April 27—Renewed in Knowledge
Read Psalm 115 and 116
Psalm 115 begins and ends with Jehovah’s earth-dwelling people blessing their God, who dwells in the heavens (vv. 1–3 and 16–18). Verses 4–15 contrast Jehovah, who alone deserves all glory, with the images of the heathen. The psalmist observes seven things about those idols: his is a “comprehensive charge list” (Motyer). He first notes that they are made by the very men who worship them! Yet, though dead, each idol “had the dreadful capacity to transform its worshippers into its own image” (Ibid). Then the psalmist lists reasons why Israel should trust in Jehovah. He ends with this motivation: Jehovah made heaven and earth. Have we been renewed in knowledge after his image? (Col. 3:10).
In Psalm 116 the psalmist recounts a time when Jehovah delivered his soul from death. In response, the psalmist asks, “What shall I render [that is, give] unto the Lord…” He strikingly answers, “I will take…” (vv. 12–13). The psalmist knew that all that we have, we have been given. As the apostle Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Do you call upon Jehovah’s name in thankful praise for the overflowing cup of salvation he has given you?
Sing or pray Psalter #426.
April 28—All Nations Blessed in the Cornerstone
Read Psalm 117 and 118
Since they belong to the Hallel psalms, some think that Psalm 115–118 comprised the “hymn” that our Lord and his disciples sang in the upper room (Matt. 26:30). At first glance, Psalm 117 may seem remarkable only in its brevity. But pause a moment and consider that the saints of the Old Testament sang this song of praise: they looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18).
Psalm 118 is a psalm of grateful, jubilant rejoicing. Why does the psalmist rejoice? He rejoices because the Lord is on his side, and in his joy he calls on Israel, the priests, and all who fear Jehovah to enter the gates of the tabernacle and join him in worship. The occasion of the psalmist’s praise is the foundation of all our prayers, for he speaks prophetically in verse 22 of our savior, Jesus Christ, the elect, precious cornerstone of God who was rejected by the builders. The man that believes on him will never be confounded.
Sing or pray Psalter #427.
April 29—The Righteous Shall Inherit the Land
Read Psalm 37
Beautiful Psalm 37 is an acrostic psalm in the Hebrew. It doesn’t have the tell-tale 22 verses, but that’s because most of the Hebrew letters are followed by a section that is two verses long in our English translations. The psalm gives very straightforward instruction to the Christian. First, we’re commanded not to envy evildoers. From an outward point of view, they lead lives of ease and prosperity. They are also hostile to God’s people. But the one who views them with eyes of faith understands that their doom is imminent. Other passages of Scripture describe the righteous like fruitful trees: the wicked are like the short-lived grass.
Second, we’re instructed to delight ourselves in Jehovah and commit our way unto him, trusting that he will act at the right time (v. 5). That doesn’t mean that the Christian life is one of inactivity, however! We must “depart from evil, and do good” (v. 27). Such responses require diligence in the disciplines of worship, prayer, Bible study, etc. As Matthew Henry wrote, “The instructions here given are very plain; much need not be said for the exposition of them, but there is a great deal to be done for the reducing of them to practice…”
Sing or pray Psalter #101.
April 30—Our God for Life
Read Psalm 71
Jehovah is no fair-weather friend: he is a faithful, life-long God. In Psalm 71 the psalmist rejoices when he reflects that the one who took him from the womb taught him throughout his youth. Children and young people, do you see the hand of God in your lives? Throughout his middle years, Jehovah proved himself faithful again and again–more times than the psalmist can count. Is that your experience, adults? Now as the psalmist reaches his later years, he comforts himself with the knowledge that Jehovah will also sustain him in the trials of old age. For his enemies are still mighty and still just as determined to do him harm as they were in the past. He rejoices to know that not only will Jehovah be his refuge and strength; after he faces the last great enemy, death, Jehovah will also raise him again (v. 20). Is that your hope, aged saint? Do you testify of Jehovah’s strength to the generation that follows you?
Jehovah’s faithfulness compelled the psalmist to sing and shout his praise throughout the day. Is that our response as well?
Sing or pray Psalter #190.
May 1—An Appeal to the Judge
Read Psalm 94
The psalmist of Psalm 94 is troubled. The proud wicked, who “speak hard things” and “boast themselves” (note again the Bible’s horror at sins of the tongue!) seem to triumph over God’s people. These wicked proud are not heathen: they are Israelites who persecute the true Israel of God (v. 10). The psalmist is awed by these unbelievers’ lack of spiritual discernment. He considers the revelations of God in creation—he formed and knows the ear, the eye, and the mind—in redemption—he will not forsake his inheritance—in faithful care—he is his people’s help and defense—and in judgement—in due time, he will reward the wicked for their iniquity. By God’s grace, he understands that these wicked are tools in Jehovah’s hand, tools that he uses to chasten his people. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law” (v. 12). And just as certainly as Jehovah will reward the wicked with trouble, so certainly will he reward his people with rest (v. 13).
“When we look around at the world we are living in, what should we see? Psalm 94 replies, we should see a call to prayer… ‘God is still on the throne’” (Motyer).
Sing or pray Psalter #253.
May 2—Cling to Jehovah’s Testimonies
Read Psalm 119:1–32
Psalm 119 is the greatest of the alphabetic acrostic psalms. All the verses in each eight-verse section begin with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The psalm is united by the theme of God’s special revelation. The psalmist uses a variety of words, each of which has a different emphasis, to describe this revelation. The word translated “law” includes all of God’s teaching. The root of “testimonies” means “to witness.” What a wonder that God witnesses of himself to us! When the psalmist writes of Jehovah’s “ways,” his focus is the godly lifestyle that conforms to God’s revelation.
Each section also has a sub-theme. In Aleph, the psalmist uses the word “keep” four times: he is resolved to keep Jehovah’s statues. In Beth, we see that he keeps this determination with integrity. He desires to be taught of Jehovah, so he meditates on Jehovah’s revelation and, in response, he declares Jehovah’s judgements. In Gimel, he acknowledges his pilgrim status and his dependence on Jehovah, even in keeping his word. The psalmist is depressed in Daleth: he describes himself as clinging to the dust. But from the dust he prays, “quicken me,” “teach me,” “make me to understand,” “strengthen me,” “remove from me,” and “grant me.” God answers his prayer, and he resolves to cling to Jehovah’s testimonies instead (v. 31).
Sing or pray Psalter #322.
May 3—The Quickening Word
Read Psalm 119:32–64
When the psalmist uses the word “statutes” to refer to Jehovah’s revelation, he underscores its permanency: it is as if his word is engraved in stone. “Commandments” stresses that Jehovah’s revelation must be obeyed.
Like Daleth, section He contains many prayers to God to act: ten prayers, in fact. Twice the psalmist prays that Jehovah would “quicken” him, that is, give him life. Of himself he would focus on vain idols; it is Jehovah who must turn his heart to his word. And yet, the psalmist isn’t idle. His ten prayers are punctuated with six resolutions. According to one commentary, every verse in Vau begins with the word “And” in the Hebrew, indicating the close relationship between all its clauses. Verses 42–48 all flow out of the wonderful reality expressed in verse 41: Jehovah is the psalmist’s salvation. The four middle verses of Zain note derision of the wicked and the psalmist’s horror at their ungodliness. These verses are balanced by verses 49 and 55, which speak of remembrance (Jehovah’s and the psalmist’s) and verses 50 and 56, which emphatically begin with “This.” Jehovah’s word brings life to the psalmist, fueling his word-devoted life. Cheth begins with the confession that Jehovah is the psalmist’s portion and ends with the confession that the earth of is full of his mercy. How does the psalmist live in response to these two realities? He answers that in verses 58–63.
Sing or pray Psalter #327.
May 4—Wise Through His Commandments
Read Psalm 119:65–104
The word “precepts” highlights the application of the principles of Jehovah’s revelation to all the details of life. When Jehovah’s revelation is referred to as his “judgments,” the emphasis is on its authority and righteousness. His are the standards according to which all men are judged.
In Teth the psalmist confesses that God is good all the time, even when he sends affliction, for it is through affliction that the divine Teacher teaches his people his word. In Jod the psalmist declares, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” God formed his physical being and established him in a specific time and place, amid “the proud” and before fellow God-fearers; the psalmist also desires the inward work of Jehovah in his mind and heart. The eight verses in Caph are a model for our prayers. In the odd-numbered verses, the waiting psalmist tells God how things are. In the even-numbered verses, he pleads for God to act. In Lamed the psalmist rejoices that Jehovah’s word is eternal. Where is true liberty to be found? In the way of keeping his commandments (v. 96). How he loves those commandments: through them he has wisdom and discernment (Mem).
Sing or pray Psalter #329.
May 5—A Shining Light
Read Psalm 119:105–136
In Nun, the psalmist twice refers to an oath he has freely sworn: he will keep Jehovah’s judgments. Though afflicted and persecuted, he confesses that there’s a lit pathway through the valley of this life: the pathway is God’s way, illuminated by his word (vv. 1–2). The psalmist doesn’t only follow this way outwardly, with his feet, but inwardly, with his heart (vv. 111–112). The psalmist notes his distinctiveness from evildoers in Samech. His perceived eccentricities arise from his adherence to Jehovah’s statutes. His obedience is driven by fear—not terror, but reverence for his holy God and his holy law. “The Word of God and the God of the Word are inseparables” (Motyer).
In Ain, the psalmist begins by testifying that he has acted according to the principles of that word. But his persecutors have not, and he calls on Jehovah to intervene. In verse 124, he pleads with Jehovah to deal with him in mercy. What form does that mercy take? The form of instruction in Jehovah’s word. In Pe the psalmist returns to the metaphor of light. As he walks in Jehovah’s ways, he experiences blessing: the very face of God shines on him.
Sing or pray Psalter #334.
May 6—Jehovah is Near
Read Psalm 119:137–176
In Tzaddi, the psalmist contrasts Jehovah—“Righteous art thou, O Lord”—and himself—“I am small and despised” (vv. 137 and 141). Mindful of his own frailty, the psalmist delights in Jehovah’s testimonies, which are as righteous and faithful as their divine source. As in verse 136, in verse 139 he grieves at those who despise that life-giving word. In Koph, the psalmist, his enemies pressing close, longs for Jehovah’s nearness, and his desire is answered with an assurance of Jehovah’s presence. In Resh, the psalmist again juxtaposes his devotion to God’s law with the willing unbelief of the wicked. Why is he so devoted to Jehovah’s precepts? He loves them. That love is the fruit of the life that only God himself can give. Knowing this, the psalmist thrice prays, “Quicken me,” that is, “Give me life” (vv. 154, 156, and 159).
Schin is replete with the psalmist’s awe of Jehovah’s word. His word is like great spoil and gives great peace. In response, the psalmist loves them exceedingly. Tau is a fourfold prayer. A. Motyer captions each two-verse section as follows: “Hear my prayer” (vv. 169–170), “Let me praise” (vv. 171–172), “Grant me help” (vv.173–174), and “Bring me home” (vv. 175–176.)
Sing or pray Psalter #342.
May 7—A Wise and Understanding Heart
Read 1 Kings 3
Matthew Henry comments on Solomon’s union with Pharoah’s daughter: “We will suppose she was proselyted, otherwise the marriage would not have been lawful; yet, if so, surely it was not advisable…Yet some think…that she was a sincere convert (for the gods of the Egyptians are not reckoned among the strange gods which his strange wives drew him in to the worship of, (ch.11:5–6)) and that [the Song of Solomon] and the 45th Psalm were penned on this occasion, by which these nuptials were made typical of the mystical espousals of the church to Christ, especially the Gentile church.”
1 Kings 3 also records Solomon’s generous sacrifice at Gibeon and his ensuing dream. In that dream, Jehovah grants Solomon’s request for wisdom with a “a wise and understanding heart” as well as riches, honor, and, if he walks in God’s ways, long life. Solomon’s request, giving evidence of Jehovah’s own work in his heart, pleased God. He rejoices at his work in us, too. If, like Solomon, we desire discernment more than anything else, let’s pray for it, “nothing wavering” (James 1:5–6). Let’s also attend regularly to God’s Word and faithful preaching of it, for there is the source of all wisdom.
Sing or pray Psalter #325.