Psalm 3 Reading

Psalm 3:1-8

A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE FLED FROM ABSALOM HIS SON.
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah 3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) David wrote this psalm while he ran away from the attempted coup of his son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15). Though David had many supporters who fled with him, Absalom “stole the hearts” (2 Sam 15:6) of many in Israel through his criticism of David’s reign. This led to civil war as Absalom’s army pursued David. The betrayal was bitter. Even one of David’s most trusted advisors had joined Absalom. Outwardly, it looked like God had forsaken David and many concluded “there is no salvation for him.” Such was the situation of God’s chosen king, homeless, betrayed and pursued by his own son, former followers, and friends.

2) But David did not despair. When faced with this life-threatening danger he turned to the Lord. The Lord was a “shield”, the same covenant promise God made to Abraham (Gen 15:1) and Moses (Deut. 33:29) long before. He trusted God to protect him and keep his promises. David called God “my glory”. He was zealous for the glory of God, while Absalom only cared about his own glory. And the Lord was “the lifter” of his head. In ancient times, when someone was in great grief, he might sit at the city gate with is head hanging low. Then his friend would come to lift his head and offer comfort. God was his “lifter” and comforter. And God answered his prayer for deliverance “from his holy hill”. The holy hill was of course Jerusalem, the place where God set David’s throne and the temple. God was the true king of Israel, and God’s decrees overruled the decrees of the usurper Absalom. This allowed David to sleep comfortably even though he was surrounded by enemies. God had strengthened him and removed his fear and he stepped forward confident that God would save him. Thousands of soldiers were no match for God.

3) Finally, David prayed an imprecatory prayer, asking God to save him by destroying the wicked who threatened him. Such may sound like a harsh prayer to our modern “tolerant” era. But those who suffer great injustice cry out for justice and God has promised to hear such prayers. Psalm 103:6 “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” David had faced great injustices from his son, who not only stole his throne, but had raped his wives and sent an army to kill him. It is not wrong to pray for deliverance from enemies. It is not a contradiction to both love our enemies and pray for deliverance from them. The great cry of the Christian, “Come Lord quickly” is an imprecatory prayer, asking Jesus to return not only to save his people but to bring an end to the wicked. We ask God to defeat the enemies of his people either by converting them (like Paul) or by judging them (like Absalom). But also notice, this is a prayer for God to act not a call for individual revenge. In fact, David was not even allowed to fight in this battle with Absalom (2 Sam 18:3-4) even though he had every right as king to do so. The battle must be fought because Israel needed to be saved from her enemy. But he told his men to spare Absalom if possible (2 Sam 18:5). Such was his compassion for his rebel son despite his great sins. David was probably hoping for conversion rather than destruction.

4) This situation of David is also instructive for us too in our own times of trouble. We worship the same Lord. He is our shield, glory, and lifter of our heads. No matter what trials or troubles may come, and they will come, they can only do what God will allow them to do in order to further our own salvation and his own glory. Once this truth about our security in the Lord grips our heart, it drowns out our fears and enables us to sleep in peace. And even more, we have the assurance David did not fully understand yet. We can look back to the Cross of Christ, the ultimate expression of God’s commitment to us. If God was willing to give up his own Son to secure eternal life for us, what do we really have to fear in this life? Has this truth gripped your own heart yet? Does it give you confidence in the face of your troubles?

Psalm 2 Reading

Psalm 2:1-12

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) This Psalm begins with a question: why do the nations rage? But it’s asked from the perspective of one standing by God’s throne and seeing what God sees. Worldly rulers are plotting and scheming against the Lord and trying to toss away the restraints he has put upon them. They reject the Lord and his moral design for mankind. They try to create kingdoms of their own free from the moral restraints and acknowledgment of God and rule as if God does not exist. At some level, the wicked conduct of rulers should be no surprise. What else should you expect when sinners are given so much authority? We should expect men with no respect for God to use their power to gratify their own lusts. But from the perspective of God’s throne, it seems utterly foolish to oppose him. Even the wildest among them cannot shake off the cords of accountability to God forever. No one can stop God’s plans for mankind. No one can truly throw off the restraints of God. No one can oppose his Anointed One without some consequence. Even the most wicked leaders in the world will one day meet their maker and give an account for how they ruled. Tyrants have risen and fallen throughout history to harass the people of God in different ways, but God remains, and therefore so do his people.

2) And how does God respond? First, God “laughs” at them. That should make any leader tremble. Take the most powerful ruler, with the most powerful nation and the most powerful weapons, and the most ambitions plans for the world, and the other nations of the world may tremble in fear. But God simply laughs at him for the fool he is. The world may treat such a ruler like a god, but to God he is just a court jester. It’s like children playing king of the mountain on a dunghill while God stands with a nuclear missile pointed at them. It is a comical scene to imagine a proud little man thinking himself so powerful and important as to challenge the all-wise, all-powerful Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of the Universe. That picture should put a check on the pride or self-importance of any leader.

3) The second response of God to wicked rulers is that he appoints his own Son as king over them. The kings set themselves against God. But God sets his Son against them. It’s like a chess match, where one side thinks he has the other’s king trapped, but suddenly the other brings out the queen and traps him with a surprise checkmate. No one can stop the appointed Son. It is futile. He has been invested with the authority and power of God. He has been given the whole world as his inheritance. And he has been given permission to crush all who oppose the living God.

4) The Psalm then ends with a call for these rebellious rulers to submit to God and his chosen king. “Kiss the Son.” At one level this is remarkable. Why doesn’t God crush them all at once? Because he intends to save some of them. He delays his judgment and offers mercy to those who would repent and bow to the rightful king. He offers them a life of true blessing, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” This is a tremendous act of mercy, in light of the fierce rebellion they committed. Whoever submits to Christ as his king will be blessed with salvation and become part of a kingdom that will never be shaken and will endure forever, a kingdom ruled by perfect wisdom, righteousness, and love. But those who continue to oppose Jesus will eventually be destroyed. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. Christ offers mercy now. But when his patience is complete then his wrath is “quickly kindled” and your time will be up and he will strike without mercy.

There are many ways to respond to this psalm. First, is Jesus your king? Is he your Lord and Savior? He offers a pardon to you now, paid for by his own blood. Take it while you can. For those suffering under oppressive rulers this gives hope. King Jesus only allows such rulers to continue in so far as it serves his plan of redemption. Then they will quickly fall. Just consider all the tyrants buried in the ash heap of history while the Church endures from one generation to the next. Thankfully, some rulers have answered the call to repentance and submitted to Christ in the past. Pray our rulers today would do that too and provide a safe environment for the Church to thrive (1 Tim 2:1-2). This psalm also warns leaders to remember who their true king is and to serve in their positions of authority in the fear of the Lord, not for personal ambition. God will hold them accountable for how they have ruled. They must recognize they are merely stewards and use their gifts and opportunities to rule wisely and sacrificially for the good of the people God put into their care. Ultimately, we look forward to a time when the redemptive plans of the King will be finished and he will return to establish his kingdom of righteousness with his people forever.

Psalm 1 Reading

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) The Psalms begin with this paradigm psalm. It sets the stage for the rest of the book. All the major themes are here; communion with God, the pursuit of the righteous, the conflict with the wicked, and the hope of final judgment for the wicked and salvation for the righteous. Like the beginning of Joshua (Jos 1:8), the worshiper is called to meditate on the law day and night with the promise of God’s help along the way and ultimate salvation in the end. And in this psalm, the path to blessing from God begins with whose word you choose to follow, the wicked or the Lord’s.

2) Some choose to listen to the counsel of the wicked, but where does their counsel ultimately lead? Notice the progression here, from walking, to standing, to then sitting. Also notice the progression of rebellion from wicked to sinner to scoffer. The path to rebellion against God is usually one of gradual hardening in sin and the person may not even be aware of it himself. That is how it the deception works. At first, you are walking in conversation with the wicked, but over time you are more influenced and convinced of that rebellious way of thinking until you are a scoffer, one has planted himself among the wicked and mocks and ridicules God and those who follow him. The counsel of the wicked is nothing to play with. You must treat it as it really is, a pathway to death.

3) The other voice to follow is the law of the Lord. The man truly blessed by God “delights” in the law. The law here refers to the whole of Scripture at this point in time. And what does the man find in God’s law? There he finds out who his creator is and how that creator has called him to live. There he finds how this Creator designed man to live in this world and to enjoy fellowship and blessing with God. By living the way God designed he finds true joy and human flourishing. And ultimately, he finds the story of redemption, how God calls sinners to come back to him for salvation. The man who plants himself there in the Scriptures is like a tree planted by the riverside, given constant supply of water which enables him to grow and thrive no matter what the conditions are like in the rest of the land. This would have been a familiar picture in Palestine, where much of the land was often dry and barren except for along the rivers.

4) The Psalm ends with the certainty of judgment. For now, the righteous and wicked must coexist. But a day is coming when the great separation will occur. God will “blow away” the wicked like chaff. But God will gather the congregation of the righteous to himself and they alone will endure on the earth with him. This is a glimpse of the resurrection hope that is woven throughout the psalms. The way of the righteous may be difficult, but in the end it leads to eternal life with our covenant God and his people. The way of the wicked may seem easy and fun and even strong as they look down upon the righteous, but in the end, they will be easily removed from the land forever in the final judgment. So, some questions to ask yourself today: Which path are you on? Which people do you choose to dwell with? Who’s counsel do you listen to? Are you delighting in and meditating on the Scriptures every day? Do you always keep in the back of your mind this inevitable day of separation from the wicked and salvation for God’s people?

Weekly Devotional Guide (April 27-May 2)

Memory Verse for the Week:

Hebrews 3:13, But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Daily Scripture Readings

  • Day 1 Psalm 1
  • Day 2 Psalm 2
  • Day 3 Psalm 3
  • Day 4 Psalm 4
  • Day 5 Psalm 5

Hymns of the Week

  • Trinity Hymnal 541 When the Roll is Called Up Yonder

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,

And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair

When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,

And the roll is called up yonder, I?ll be there

Refrain

When the roll, is called up yon-der, When the roll, is called up yon-der,

When the roll, is called up yon-der, When the roll is called up yonder I?ll be there

On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,

And the glory of His resurrection share

When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,

And the roll is called up yonder, I?ll be there

Refrain

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,

Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care

Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,

And the roll is called up yonder, I?ll be there

Refrain

  • Trinity Hymnal 503 Out of My Bondage

1 Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of my sickness into Thy health, Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus, I come to Thee.

2 Out of my shameful failure and loss, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross, Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm, Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm, Jesus, I come to Thee.

3 Out of unrest and arrogant pride, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessed will to abide, Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love, Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove, Jesus, I come to Thee.

4 Out of the fear and dread of the tomb, Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home, Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold, Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold, Jesus, I come to Thee.

Acts 11 Reading

Acts 11:25-30

25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. 27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) This week we looked at biblical responses to disaster. We’ve seen how disasters call us to repentance and test our faith. We also saw how God calls us to trust him and keep moving forward when disaster strikes. Now, another biblical response to disaster is the opportunity to minister to others. In our passage today, the church in Antioch is told by God (via Agabus) that a famine was coming to Jerusalem. During the reign of Claudius, several famines hit the Roman Empire. Paul and Barnabas had been working the church in Antioch and the Lord had blessed their labors with a fast-growing church. Many Gentiles were saved. The “Christians” got their name in Antioch. Scholars debate whether Christians called themselves “Christians” or whether it was originally an insult from pagans. When the warning of famine arrived, the church in Antioch wasted no time in gathering support for the church in Jerusalem and sent Paul and Barnabas to deliver the aid. Paul did this again later, gathering aid for Jerusalem from other churches he helped to plant (1 Cor 16:1-3). There did not seem to be any hesitation. The churches immediately responded to disaster by offering aid to the church in need. Disaster provided the opportunity for ministry. Too often, when disaster strikes, we focus too much on ourselves. But if we are stable, then we must ask, is there anything we can do to help others? Even if it’s just a little? We don’t know how large a gift Antioch sent to Jerusalem. We know from Acts 6 that the diaconal needs were great and probably more so in time of famine. But every little bit helps. And by offering what help they could, they demonstrated unity and love within the body of Christ. Disaster can provide an opportunity to strengthen our unity and fellowship in Christ, much like war strengthens the bonds of camaraderie among soldiers.

2) But perhaps more significant, and Paul stressed this with his later gift too, was the unity expressed between Jewish and Gentile believers. For many generations, there was animosity between Jew and Gentile, and we see evidence of that tension lingering in the Church in the early chapters of Acts and in Paul’s letters. But the gospel was breaking down these hostile ethnic barriers. And the provision of gifts from Gentile churches to Jewish churches was proof of that. The non-Christian Jews and Gentiles were still as hostile as ever (war between the Romans and Jews was only a few years away). But the Christian Jews and Gentiles had become brothers. Their identity in Christ was more important than their ethnic loyalty. They were both citizens and members of the one household of God (Eph 2:19) and learned to treat each other that way. So the disaster in Jerusalem provided an opportunity for the church in Antioch to express that unity and solidarity together as the one church and people of God.

3) Let’s make one more observation about Paul’s role here too. We aren’t told why Paul was chosen as a messenger to the church in Jerusalem. But there is a great gospel irony here. This was the church he formerly persecuted viciously. Paul mentioned often how Jesus saved him from his former sin of persecution. And now Paul was sent to bring gifts of mercy and love to the same church. It is one more picture of how Christ and the gospel transforms people. It would be easy to imagine that some Christians in Jerusalem still had doubts about Paul, even after the apostles gave him the right hand of fellowship. In fact, teachers from Jerusalem would create different problems in the church later for Paul (Acts 15). But Paul continued to love the church in Jerusalem and coordinated efforts to help them in their suffering. Disaster provided the opportunity for ministry, and provided Paul the opportunity to love those he formerly hated. Perhaps there are opportunities around you to minister to others during this pandemic? In coming days we will likely learn of other churches around the world in need of help. Are you ready to help if you are able?