Praying the Psalms: Psalm 24

  Psalm 24 is a liturgical psalm used by the people of Israel to assemble together in worship. It is a psalm bursting with excitement and energy, as the people rejoice at the opportunity to gather to worship the Lord. As we study this psalm of David, we will see what it means to truly worship the Lord as we wait in eager expectation for King Jesus.

Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-2 - The Lord owns it all. He creates the cosmos, so the cosmos belongs to him. The focus at the start of this psalm is on the earth. The earth is beautiful and filled with beautiful landscapes, vegetation, and creatures.

God has established all there is by the word of his power. He brought the land out from the waters. He chisels the rivers and their curves with his finger. He is the master craftsman, the prestigious artists, and the detailed designer of the earth. He then, sets man as the crown jewel of his creation. He fills the earth with creatures in the sea, on the land, and in the air. He finishes his work by creating humanity in his image. He places man in a place of honor and creates humanity in his own image. As this psalm of David begins, our attention is drawn back towards Genesis 1. The Lord is the creator God. Because the Lord creates the world he owns the world. Yet, the Lord not only owns the whole earth, but he owns those who dwell in it, manly human beings. All of it is his and all of it belongs to him.

v 3-6 - This psalm was most likely used for liturgical purposes by the people as they go to worship the Lord. The question asked is a reflective one. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” (3). If the Lord is the creator God who owns everything, who are we as human beings to approach his holy hill to worship him? The psalm tells us the type of people who are fit to come and worship the Lord and approach him in his holiness. It is he who possess both a love for purity and a love for the truth. In purity, a true worshiper of God possess clean hands, undefiled by sin. The heart of the worshiper is pure, not filled with carnal lusts and passions. A worshiper is not merely outwardly righteous. A person could perhaps fool others in looking outwardly righteous. But a true worshiper of God is pure from within his or her heart. There is a personal holiness that goes deep into the recesses of our hearts. We must not be like the Pharisees whom Jesus called white washed tombs who were rotting on the inside. A true worshiper is pure in heart.

Yet, a worshiper of God not only has a deep love for purity but a love for truth as well. Sound doctrine is essential for proper worshiper. The one who si fit to ascend the hill of the Lord is one who “does not lift up his soul to what is false” (4). She does not believe the lies of the world, but possess a hunger for the truth of God. She studies her Scripture diligently longing for greater knowledge of God. She is on guard against false teaching, errors, and lies. She tests the spirit’s to see whether they come from God.

A true worshiper, one who ascends up the holy hill and who stands in the holy place of God is one who loves purity and truth.

There is great blessing in having the privilege of worshiping the Lord. God gives us his favor and gives us his righteousness. Those who seek the face of God will find him. How we need more men and woman who hunger for more of God! Where are the men and women of this day who possess a deep love for purity and truth? Where are the Christians who trust in the righteousness given them by faith to have such boldness to walk in confidence to the holy place of God and enjoy his presence? Where are those who enjoy and worship the Lord who own’s it all? May we seek God with such intensity and repent of seeking lesser things. Our master beckons us and invites us to worship. Our creator and owner calls his children into his holy assembly.

Yet, as we think about the question of this stanza, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?”, there is no one who is worthy. As the apostle Paul tells us in Romans there is no one righteous, no not one. All of us are tainted and defiled by sin. Our hands are not clean, nor are our hearts pure. Each of us are fish hooked on the deceptive lies of this world. Knowing ourselves truly, we know that we are not worthy. Yet, this passage anticipates the coming of a king of glory who qualifies us for true and proper worship. We have a God who give salvation to us by giving to us the righteousness of his only son.

v. 7-10 - As this liturgical psalm continues, there is a climactic chant towards the end. It has a call and response rhythm to it. It encapsulates the jubilant demeanor of God’s people as the King of glory comes. There is the panting anticipation that God would come and be with his people.

The question: “Who is this king of glory?.

The answer: “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord , mighty in battle!”

The King of glory comes. He is strong and ready to win the battle and achieve victory. The King of glory has come. The creator of the universe entered into his world in the person of Jesus Christ. He comes fit for battle as the strong and mighty warrior. Yet, he first came not to overcome political powers, but to overcome our spiritual foe. Jesus comes to defeat the kingdom of darkness and the enslaving condemnation of our sin by his death on the cross. Yet, on the third day the gate was be open. The stone was rolled back and the resurrected King of glory came into his victory.

The resurrected Christ eventually ascended into heaven. The gates were opened and he return to his glorious place at the right hand of the Father. Yet, as we wait for his return, we know that the gates will one day be opened again. They will be lifted and the King of glory will return clothed in power to establish his Kingdom on the earth he owns. The earth is his and its inhabitants. And on that day when Jesus establishes his kingdom, those who are saved and made righteous by faith will ascend the hill of the Lord  and stand in his holy place.  The gates will be opened that the King of glory may come in. “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!” (10).

Prayer Guide

  • Thank the Lord for his creation and confess his possession of it all, remembering that all you own does not belong to you, but to him.
  • Ask the Lord with the Spirit’s help through your faith in Christ to have a love for purity and truth. Ask God to help you become a worshiper who lives your life for his glory.
  • Thank the Lord that he saves you and makes you righteous through Jesus Christ.
  • Praise the Lord that the King of glory came and one the victory.
  • Ask the Lord to help you trust  that the gates will one day be opened, and that the King of glory will return.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 23

Is there a more comforting image of God than as a shepherd? God is a tender shepherd who loves his sheep. The sheep trust him and the shepherd loves his flock. He cares for us, leads us, protects us, and loves us. Psalm 23 is one of the best known passages of Scripture. It is quoted and memorized by many, and most people are familiar with it. Yet, because we are so familiar with the psalm, we become numb to its potent reminder of God’s love and affection for his sheep. Psalm 23 is a psalm of trust, whispered by generations in the anxious dark night of the soul. Though calamity surrounds, God’s faithful sheep preach this psalm to their own hearts as a always needed reminder that “The Lord is my shepherd”. Let’s take a look at the beautiful psalm with fresh eyes. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-3 - David is a sheep. As the psalm writer, he recognizes that the Lord is his personal shepherd. He is foolish, weak, and frail as a man. To call yourself a sheep is almost to call yourself an ignoramus. Sheep are not very smart. They stray away. They are stubborn. They are clueless. Yet, David has enough self awareness about his own heart, that he is prone to wander in to the dangerous thicket of sin. He needs a loving shepherd who can guide him and protect him. The Lord is his shepherd.

The Lord is the good shepherd, because he provides for the sheep. David does not want for anything. The shepherd makes sure his sheep are provided for and taken out to the safe and nutritious green pastures. God leads his sheep to a place of safety and of rest. He does restore our souls.

As we think about the work of Christ, our good shepherd he too restores our soul. He leads us down the narrow path of righteousness that leads to life. He guides us and shows us the way. He leads us the the fountain of everlasting waters. He takes to the comforting green grass into his presence where their is peace and enteral joy. We have a good shepherd who cares for the sheep, and his name is Jesus Christ.

v. 4 - As a sheep, not every day is spent in a beautiful green pasture on a gorgeous cool afternoon with rays of sunshine sparkling over your reflective fleece. Bad days come, even for little lambs. Everyone has moments where we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. These moments of loss, grief, pain, and sadness distress the heart of even the most trusting sheep. Yet, the distress of the valley dissipates when we remind ourselves one the goodness of the shepherd.

David says that even though he walks through those valleys, he does so without fear. No matter what is lurking in the darkness behind the cleft, the Shepherd is with him. The Shepherd carries a rod and a staff to both protect and guide the sheep to safety. No matter what carnivorous wolves salivating in the darkness, the shepherd will protect his sheep from the blood lust of their enemies. He will make sure that his sheep pass through the valley safely and without harm. This is why David says that the shepherd’s rod and staff are a comfort to him. He knows that God is not an impotent God, unaware and caught of guard by the darkness. Rather, he is the courageous shepherd who is ready to defend at any moment.

What comfort for us as the people of God! God is not only all loving and all knowing, but he is all powerful. What voracious enemy threatens you when God is your shepherd? Who will be able to overcome the strength of the Almighty? God is the protector of his sheep. He does not disappoint, therefore the sheep can have utmost trust in their shepherd as one who is more than able to defend them from harm.

v. 5-6 - The image then shifts from one of shepherding to feasting. God is the host who prepares a table for his guests. He does this in the presence of the enemies. Though they swarm, God lavishes his protective love on his children.  To prepare a meal and eat a meal with another was a sign of intimacy, affection, honor, and love. God lavishes all of those on us as he prepares that table. He pours out the anointing oil on our head and he fills our cup till it overflows. The imagery of all this is clear; God lavishes his children with blessing, kindness, and love. It does not matter what enemies there may be, he delights in his sheep and he cares for them.

Because of God’s extravagant care, protection, and love for his sheep as the good shepherd, David knows that goodness and mercy will follow him all of his life. If God is for him, who can be against him? As we are recipients of God’s divine love we leave a trail of evidence of God’s goodness and mercy, no matter how long or dark the valleys may be. He is a God who brings us into his presence and we dwell with him for ever.

What a beautiful image of comfort and what an expression of trust! Yet, how much greater does the beauty of Psalm 23 increase as we dwell on the good shepherd Jesus Christ who lays down his life for the sheep? Jesus leads our soul by giving up his life for our good. God anoints our head with the lavish, priceless blood of his own son. He lavishes us with every spiritual blessing as our cup overflows into an ever growing ocean of divine grace.

Jesus stands in the upper room as his enemies surrounded him. He prepares a table for his disciples and says eat and drink the body and blood of the son. As Jesus set down his goblet of wine, he goes into the garden prepared to have the cup of God’s wrath poured out on him. The overflow of blessings we receive from God is only possible because the overflow of divine judgement was poured on Jesus. Judgement and wrath followed Jesus at the end of his life, so that you could have goodness and mercy follow you into eternal life. It is through the death of the good shepherd that we are brought into the house of God. The good shepherd becomes the lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

By the blood of Christ, we are brought into the permeant rest of vibrant emerald pasture and running crystal waters. We are lead into the great wedding feast of the lamb as we eat at that divinely prepared table of unending nourishment and celebration. We will pass through the valley of darkness through the blood of the protective shepherd; on that day when the valley of death is behind us, our shepherd will lead us to the land of rest and there we shall dwell with our shepherd in ceaseless joy and an ever expanding satisfaction forever more.

Prayer Guide

  • What situation has you stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed? Share that with the Lord.
  • Praise God for the ways he cares for you as your good shepherd.
  • Ask the Lord to help you trust in him, knowing that he will never let you down.
  • Thank God for the good shepherd named Jesus who by his life and death brings you into enteral rest.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” For most Christians that haunting question stirs our hearts with sorrow. That desperate question was uttered by none other than Jesus himself on the cross. Jesus references the first line of Psalm 22 as he hangs on the cross. The Gospel writers, particularly Mathew, uses Psalm 22 throughout the crucifixion narrative to emphasize the innocence of Jesus. Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament and like all psalms of lament, the conclusion ends in praise. As we read in this Psalm about the horrific suffering of an innocent man, it so clearly points us to Jesus, the innocent son of God. Jesus’ crucifixion would not be the end of his story, but ends in great victory through his resurrection. Psalm 22 may begin in great sorrow, but concludes in great praise and victory, following the patter of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-5 - The psalm begins with a desperate and anxious question. Why does God seem so far away? Why does he seem so distant? Does God not hear the cries of the innocent? Can he not hear their groans in the dark of the night? The psalmist cries out day by day, night by night, but the Lord doesn’t answer. There is no rest.

We have all felt this way at some point in our Christian life. Where is God when it hurts? Just when we think we need him the most, he seems peculiarly absent in our lives. We may be in agony and anguish, but God doesn’t respond.

The psalmist has put his trust in the Lord continually. He knows that he is the holy one of God. His suffering casts no doubt on the goodness of God’s character. The psalmist knows that in the past, God answered the cries of the faithful of Israel. They trusted God, and were not point to shame.

Yet, the Psalmist is confused. He has grown up hearing about God’s faithfulness towards his people, but in his situation God seems to be absent? What seems to be the problem? So the psalmists is resolutely confident in God, but at the same time confused. Why is God absent for him, when God has intervened in the lives of so many others?

v. 6-18 - The psalmist then describes his condition. He is decimated and despised. He is rejected and scorned. He is mocked and taunted. To his enemies he is but a worm. His enemies scoff at his faith and taunt the Lord, “He trust sin the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (v 8) This psalmist is a man who is hated, but for no good reason. He is completely innocent and without faulty, yet he is despised and rejected by men.

Though he is jaded and barbed with the verbal spears of malicious foes, the psalmist trusts the Lord. He reflects on his trust in the Lord from the beginning. He has trusted continually in the Lord, even in his infancy, while he was at his mother’s breast. He has been wholly devoted to the Lord and innocent of these dehumanizing accusations.

Yet, the psalmist continues to be poured out like water. His bones are out of joint. His heart is melting under the duress of the persecution. His strength has dried up as he comes to lay in the dust of death.

The blood thirsty canine scavengers encircle him. They devour the weak as their prey. The count his bones to divide among them as they cast lots to divide his clothing. They pierce his hands and feet. These wicked men seek to take anything of value from this man and leave him in dehumanizing shame. They will not cease until they have turned this righteous and godly man into a worm.

As we read what this innocent man of Psalm 22 is going through, the images bring to our mind the crucifixion of our Lord. From the mocking at the cross—“If you are the son of God come down for there”, or “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!”—to the casting lots of his clothing, and to the piercing of his hands and feet, in all of it we see in Jesus.

Anyone who would have walked by Golgotha’s hill on that good Friday would have come to the conclusion that God has abandon this man. There is no way that God delights in him, because God has not rescued him. This is the way many of us think today. If God lets us incur a terrible fate, than either the problem must be in us or with God. Yet, throughout the Bible we see that God allows suffering to come upon the righteous in order to deliver them for the glory of his name. God uses the malicious intent of wicked men and turns it on its head. God is so sovereign that he is able to use depraved acts of violence to bring about an ultimate good.

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v. 19-21 - The sufferer cries out to God for help. Those his circumstances seem to swallow him up, his trust in the Lord is unfading. He calls out to the Lord, “Do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!” This final desperate cry is one of deliverance and salvation.

When we are in similar situations, we too should pray and ask God for help. May our suffering never cause us to lose our confidence in God’s ability to rescue. Though he may seem far, he is near. Though he may seem incompetent, he is more than able. A crises of life should not become a crises of faith. Despite what this psalmist is going through, his trust in the Lord is resolute. So too should it be for all of God’s people.

v. 22-31 - As lament psalms do, this psalm concludes in praise. “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (24). Those who trust in the Lord, place their trust rightly. God is reliable; he hears and responds to the desperate cries of his people. Though it might be delayed, rescue is coming. The result of that rescue leads to praise, satisfaction and joy. This rescue not only leads to the satisfaction and joy of the sufferer, but it leads to world wide praise to God!

All the peoples of the earth will worship before God. The Kingship belongs to the Lord, and he will reign forever. The result of this rescue is the worship of God’s name from generation to generation. Those yet to be born will one day hear of the righteousness that God has done.

As we think about Jesus’ cry on the cross, it is understood much deeper in light of the entire psalm. Yes, Jesus was in great suffering and agony as the innocent man who was pierced on that cross. At that moment of great suffering, God seemed distant and it appeared that God had abandon his son on the cross as Jesus bore the penalty of sin. Yet, God would not abandon his son, even in death. Though Jesus died, on the third day he would rise again to victory. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the center point of history. The entire earth must hear the good news of what Christ has done by dying in our place on the cross. The crucified son of God has been given the kingship that endures for ever. This good news has been told from generation to generation, to a people yet unborn.

The Gospel of Jesus has continued to be passed down from generation to generation. For two thousand years Christian moms and dads tell their children about the righteousness of God found in Jesus Christ. As Christians we must continue to proclaim to the next generation that the suffering son of God is the resurrected king and the savior of the world.

Prayer Guide

  • Have you ever felt abandon by God? Share your heartache honestly to the Lord.
  • Pray that God would give you the faith to trust him even when things go badly in your life.
  • Ask the Lord for deliverance from your enemies, particularly when you are suffering for righteousness sake.
  • Praise the Lord that God did not abandon Jesus, but raised him again on the third day.
  • Ask the Lord for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with others.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 21

Psalm 21 is another royal psalm, closely connected to the preceding psalm, psalm 20. Psalm 21 serves as a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his blessings on the King. The themes of kingship and kingdom run throughout the Bible. As we look at the joy the people of Israel found in their righteous and godly king, we too find our joy in the eternal king Jesus Christ. As we look at this Psalm today we will find that the Lord blessed his anointed King and exalts him to glory. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-7 - The Psalm begins as a prayer to God in thanksgiving for their King and the way God has honored the king. The king is a godly and righteous king who rejoices in the Lord, delighting in the salvation of God. As a result, God is faithful to bless the king. He gives the king his hearts desire and sets a crown  of fine gold upon his head. God blesses the king with a long life and the king is made glorious through the salvific work of God. God gives to him splendor an majesty. The King is the most blessed, because “the king trusts in the Lord” (7).

God loves to bless his anointed king. Though this psalm was originally addressed to a godly king in Israel, this psalm points so clearly to the true king and the true son of David. Jesus is the Christ. Christ means the anointed one. Jesus is the faithful and obedient servant king who finds his strength in God. He rejoices in the presence of his Father and delights to obey him.

Since Jesus is the righteous king, God crowns him with honor and praise. Jesus is the forever king of God’s people, because he is the only perfectly righteous king. The Father gives to his son life, and resurrected life at that. The length of his days stretch thought the unfathomable time of eternity.

The psalmist tells us that “His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him” (5). Truer words have never been spoken about Jesus. Jesus the king is made glorious through the salvation of God. Through the salvation God purchased through the death of the righteous king, the king then receives the glory for it. The ascribing of splendor and majesty is ascribed to Jesus so clearly in the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus who became the obedient servant, even unto death is know highly exalted by God. God gives to him the name that is above every name.

v 8-12 - The psalm continues in its celebration of the king by praising the Lord for his protection of the king. Enemies may very well rise up to challenge the King. They may be filled with violent hate, but the Lord will deliver the King from his enemies. “The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them”. The King’s enemies do not stand a chance. They will be wiped away by the very power of God.  Though the enemies may plan evil against the king, they will not succeed.

Certainly the powers of darkness cannot stand agains the anointed king Jesus. Despite all their cunning and hatred towards Jesus, their plans were foiled. Though they sought to kill Jesus, God used his death to bring about salvation and resurrected glory. Those who stand as enemies of God’s anointed king should be fearful, whether demonic or human. Jesus the true King will come again and establish his kingdom on the earth. Those who align themselves with the powers of darkness will face swift destruction and the eternal wrath of God.

v 13 - The Psalm concludes with a crescendo of praise. May the Lord be exalted in his strength, because the Lord provides strength to his anointed and blessed the righteous King. As we think about the kingship of Jesus, it is mean to bring us before our knees in worship. God is glorifies through his King and as we serve King Jesus with our lives, it is done  in worship and in love to God.

Prayer Guide

  • Thank God for King Jesus and for the way God has exalted him.
  • Thank God for the salvation given to you through Jesus.
  • Praise God for the confidence we have knowing that Jesus’ enemies will one day be defeated once and for all.
  • Praise the Lord for his strength and he glorifies himself through his King.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 20

The people of Israel love their king. They understood that their spiritual and political victories was tied to God blessing his anointed King. Psalm 20 is a royal psalm in which the people sing and pray for their king and for God’s blessing on him. As we study this Psalm we will see that our hope is wedded to the anointed one of God, Jesus the Christ. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-5 - The first stanza of this psalm is addressed to the King. The people are praying that the Lord would answer him in the day of trouble and be protected by the God of Jacob. The people want their king to prosper and desire for the hand of God to help him in achieving victory. The people long for their king to be prosperous.

They recognize that their king is a godly king. He is a king who honors the Lord and who gives offerings and burnt sacrifices. The king lives in obedience and in accordance to God’s law. As a result, the people ask God to remember the kings faithfulness in his service and worship.

Israel want their king’s desire to be fulfilled. These are a people who love their king and long for him to be blessed by God. The people know that their prosperity is tied to the prosperity of their king. Their national hopes and dreams are tied to God’s blessing on their king.

As we think about this royal psalm, we can’t quite pray it in the same way. Our hope is not in any earthly kingdom, certainly not the United States of America. Our allegiance is first to the kingdom of God. Yet, it is fitting for us to pray and long for men and women who can lead us in the truth. It is appropriate to long for God’s blessing on our nation, but again these must always be kept in balance. It is easy for us to let our nationalism supersede our allegiance to Christ and his kingdom, making an idol out of country. Christians should pray for their leaders and for God’s blessing, yet always remembering that the Christian hope is not found in a political party, a congressman, or a presidential candidate, but resurrected King, Jesus.

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So the people shout for joy over the salvation that their king gives them and they set up banners celebrating God who gives their king his strength. The concluding plea is “may the Lord fulfill all your petitions!”

v. 6-9 - The second stanza is now addressed directly to the Lord. They affirm that God chooses to bless his anointed King, that God will answer his beloved king and save him with his mighty hand. Here the people recognize the true source of victory, power, and prosperity for which they so desperately long. The source of these things are not in the king himself, but in the Lord.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” This cry should be on our lips as well. Any hope or zeal we have for the furtherance of God’s kingdom is dependent on God himself. As we think about the mission of the church to go and reach sinners with the Gospel, it is easy to trust in our own might. We trust in the ingenuity of our creative ideas. We rely on our reason and powers of rhetorical persuasion. We place our hope in the latest fads or the newest trends that promise to bring ministry success. Sadly, so many of us trust in chariots and horses rather than God. The chariots have evolved into programs and horses have morphed into innovation, but our trust continues to be in man’s strength rather than God’s!

As the redeemed people of God,  purchased by the blood of Christ, we must not trust in man’s might. The singular source of ministry fruitfulness and church growth lies in the power of God. After all, the chariots will collapse and the horses will fall. But we who trust in the Lord will rise and stand upright.

May we not be conned into thinking that it is the power of men that can bring us victory and salvation. Whatever quick-fix, five-step method is marketed today will collapse tomorrow. Those who place their trust in the power of God will continue to stand.

The final verse is a plea to the Lord, “God save the King!” The people rightly recognize and so to should we that the Lord loves his anointed king. Though David was a great king of Israel he is but a foreshadow of the true King of all the earth. A greater son from David would one day be born. Born in Bethlehem like his father David, Jesus is the anointed one of God. He has the right to rule. Jesus is the one who bring about salvation for God’s people and gives us the joy of our salvation. The dereliction of the cross and the shame of his death was not his end. The Lord saves his anointed. He answers his from heaven and on the third day the saving might of God’s right hand raised his son from the grave. May God save the King! He certainly has. He saved him from the throngs of death and Jesus reigns and rules.

Our joy and prosperity is tied and connected to this true king. Our hope, our victory, and our strength is wedded to Jesus. May we too pray for the Kings victory in our life and in our world, knowing that when the King returns his victory will be fully consummated when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom with his bride, the church.

Prayer Guide

  • Pray for your political leaders, that God would lead them to walk and lead in truth.
  • Thank the Lord for providing victory and salvation through his anointed king!
  • Ask the Lord to help you trust in his power, not in the power of chariots and horses.
  • Thank the Lord that he saves his king, and that through Jesus we have the promised victory of resurrected glory!

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 19

God is a revealing God. He does not conceal himself, hiding away like the Wizard of Oz behind a curtain. God loves to show himself. David, in Psalm 19 is going to celebrate God’s revelation of himself both through the creation and through his word. God reveals himself generally through the cosmos, and specifically through the Scriptures. God’s gracious act of communicating himself to us is undeserved, but it is absolutely wonderful. If it wasn’t for God communicating himself to us, we would not know him. God reveals himself to us so that we might respond to his glory in worship.

Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-6 - God has revealed himself in the cosmos. “The Heavens declare the glory of God.” Theologians call this aspect of God’s revelatory work general revelation. General revelation means that God has revealed himself to all people simply by creating the universe. We can see aspects of his attributes and character simply by observing creation. We can observe his grandness as we look at the immense size of galaxies or we can perceive his order and rule as he establishes the laws of physics. We can identify his creativity by looking at the his imagination at work in the many different organisms that populate our planet. We can comprehend his beauty by standing on a mountain watching the parting clouds over the red and orange tapestry of the sunset. The heavens are declaring the glory of God!

David tells us that each day is a mini sermon. The world itself is pouring out revelation. “Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge.” The universe each day in rhythm continues its unceasing praise to God simply by its continual existence. The world is communicating something to us. The universe is pointing us to its creator, God himself. David says that speech doesn’t exist if the voice isn’t heard, but the voice of the cosmos of God’s glory is spread throughout the ends of the earth.

The voice of God’s general revelation goes out like the rising of the sun. The sun comes out each day like a bridegroom leaving his chamber. The sun runs its course across the sky with joy. It rises from one end of the sky and sets as the other. The light of the sun covers the earth and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Everyone can hear the voice of creation testifying to its creator. Though many choose to ignore this message or drown it out, the message is hitting our ears if only we would listen to it. This complex, gargantuan, and beautiful cosmos sings like a choir in one unified message, “Glory to God!”

God speaks this message to every human being. We have all heard, yet we all reject God. Though God reveals himself generally to all, general revelation only condemns us. Though many people have yet to hear about Jesus and the Gospel, we are all witnesses to the general revelation of God and we have rejected him as God and have worshiped created things rather than the creator (Rom 1:25). Yet, even though our sin blinds us, the heavens speak, declaring the glory of God.

v. 7-11 - God not only reveals himself through creation, but God also speaks to us with words. Theologians call this special or specific revelation. The Bible, God’s written word is special revelation, and David begins to celebrate God’s revelatory work as he considers God’s word.

Verse 7-9 are a series of parallel statements describing and celebrating God’s word.  The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. Yes, how the word of God brings life to our soul! Though we are downcast, numb, and lifeless, God’s word comes in power restoring and reviving. The word of God brings life to those dry bones, so too does it revive those dead in sin and brings life.

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The word of God is a sure foundation. It is stable and firm. It is not filled with lofty and confusing worldly wisdom, but rather is simple and straight forward. It is a message that is clear to all people.

The precepts are the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. God’s words brings joy to our hearts, because they are right and true. We delight in the truth, so we delight in God’s revealed words. They are precious to us and we long to read them and know them. They are our joy because through his right precepts we are able to know and love God.

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Scripture is pure and righteous. As we read it we see who we truly are. Our eyes are opened to see our own brokenness and sin as we gaze at the righteousness of God.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever. Yes, the word of God is clean. It is without error and without corruption. It is infallible and inerrant. As a result the word of God is fixed, enduring for ever. It never changes, because God never changes. As Jesus says, not one iota will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Mt 5:18)

The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. God’s word is true and righteous. It is the good word and the right word. It is the objective standard of what is right and wrong, what is good and what is holy, and what is righteous and what is sinful.

What response to we have to this wonderful self-revelation of God called the Scriptures? Well as David tells us in v. 10, we desire it. We long to know it and to read it. These Scriptures are more to be desired than gold. The word of God is sweeter than honey. We delight and desire for more of God’s revelation. We long for more of his word. We would gladly trade all the treasures and jewels and money in the world in order to own a Bible.

If only we would desire God’s word in this way, but our hearts are so stubborn. We spend so much time seeking the gold of materialism and the sweetness of the honey called comfort. If only we would repent of lesser joys in order to seek the greater joy, God himself, as we experience him and know him through his word! The word of God provides instructions and warnings. In keeping the word of God and following it, there is great reward.

v. 12-14 - The Psalm moves to reflection and confession. As we think about God’s revelation of himself, the only response is humility. God has revealed himself through his creation but more specifically through his word. Through the word of God we receive the Gospel message of Christ that tells us of our salvation by the grace of God. As we think of God’s revelatory work may we respond like David in humility. May God declare us innocent through the blood of Christ and keep us from sin. Through the mercy of God may we be made blameless and innocent under the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus is the pinnacle, the highpoint of revelation. He is the one to whom all revelation points. As we see the arrows of the created order pointing us to God and as hear the words of God recorded in the Scriptures, the are all pointing to the glory of the redeemer, Jesus Christ. He is the one who takes away our sin and who makes us innocent and blameless. Praise be to God for his son and for his redemption. May we praise the Lord for his greatest work of revelation, as his word puts on flesh and dwells among us in the person of Jesus Christ.

v. 14 - The Psalm concludes in solemn prayer for God to find acceptable the words of David’s psalm. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer”. Even time we get on our knees in prayer, as we meditate on God’s written word, or as we speak to others about God, may this be our prayer. May our words and may our thinking be acceptable to God. May we think and speak in a way that gives glory to God and is acceptable to him. We we rightly divide the word of truth, speaking clearly and accurately about this glorious God.

Prayer Guide

  • Praise God for his created order and the beauty all around you that points to him.
  • Thank God for revealing himself not only through creation, but through his word.
  • Ask God to help you delight in his word more than gold or honey.
  • Confess your sins before God and ask that through the blood of Christ he would make you innocent and blameless before him.
  • Ask God to help you think and speak in a way that is acceptable this and honoring to him in all you say.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 18

The crescendo of victory reverberates as a joyous moment. David has spent many days frightened by his enemy, yet God would deliver him. The context of this psalm is important, it is almost an exact copy of the song of David from 2 Samuel 22 as David celebrates the victory God had given him over Saul. Yet, this personal song of David is included in the hebrew hymn book, indicating that the future prosperity of the people of God are tied to God's blessing on David and his offspring. As God's people would sing this psalm, it serves as a prayer for God to bless the line of David and grant their king victory. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-3 - The psalm begins with a summary of the praise that will unfold. Interestingly, this Psalm concludes a section of psalms in which David is praying for deliverance against his enemies. (See Psalm 16, 17). The Psalm begins with David stating his love for the Lord. God has been a great rock and refuge for David. God protects like an impenetrable shield or a stronghold that can not crumble. Because David called on the Lord, God saved him from his enemies. The rest of the Psalm is a celebration of God's victory over David's enemies.

v. 4-6 - David begins to reflect how he had called on God in his most desperate moments. When the throngs of death surrounded him, when the torrents of destruction assailed him, and when the cords of Sheol ensnared him, he called out to God, his help. He calls out to God and the Lord heard the prayer of David.

One of the main applications we can make as we study these psalms of David, is his unwavering reliance on the Lord. In the moment of crises and desperation he is quick to get on his knees and go to his God. Shouldn't we do the same? Yet, whenever we find ourselves in crises, we quickly engineer a plan or vent our frustrations to a friend. How slow we are to simply get on our knees before God and pray for help!

v. 7-19 - These verses use vivid language to describe how God had delivered David from his enemies.  The imagery is extravagant and moves quickly from one metaphor to another. David describes God as a dragon riding swiftly to come to his aid (v. 10). Then he begins to describe God's arrival as a powerful storm filled with hailstones and fire as the thunder crackles (11-14). God drew David out of many waters, as his rescuer from his enemies.

The point David stresses in this vivid scenes is clear: God brought David his victory. David is helpless and surrounded, but God fought for David. God handled his enemies, and rescued him from their mighty hatred. So too does God single-handedly rescue us from our enemies, especially as we consider our greatest of enemies, sin and death. No power exerts such strength that the mighty hand of God cannot overcome.

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v. 20-30 - David then moves to claim his faithfulness to God during his difficult trial. He has kept the ways of the Lord; he kept the statutes of God, and was blameless before him. So the Lord rewarded David and delivered him. God loves the righteous and showers them in mercy. God shines as a  lamp to David, protecting him from his enemies and from sin. His love strengthens David as he follows the perfect way of God.

v. 31-45 - The Psalm begins to move to a great celebration of the work of God's victory. "For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?" (31). God has been his refuge and has equipped him with strength. He has been his shield and God has given him his support. It is by the power of God that David has been granted victory and his enemies destroyed like a fine dust. God has brought victory to the divinely appointed king.

v. 46-50 - The Psalm concludes with an important reflection on God's faithfulness to his anointed King. David summarizes, "The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.” God has saved and delivered his anointed. God spared and rescued David from his enemies.

The last two verses serve as important reminders for us as we understand the flow of redemptive history. God brings great salvation to his king and shows love to his anointed. God has specifically chosen David and his offspring to bless and to bring about a blessing to others. As we look at the ways in which God rescued David from his enemies, God would rescue the greater David from his enemies. Many years down the road, another offspring of David would be anointed in the Holy Spirit as the divinely appointed King.

The God-man Jesus Christ was arrested and flung into the rushing waters of blood-thirsty men who sought his life. Yet, God was with his king. Through his flogging and crucifixion, God would not abandon his anointed. On the third day, God would raise his son to victory overcoming his enemies and conquering sin and death.

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Like Israel, our blessing is tied to God's blessing of the King. The victory of Jesus is our own victory, given to us by the mighty hand of God the Father. Through Jesus we share in his victory and we share in the glory of God's salvation as recipients of divine grace. God shows his steadfast love not only to his anointed, but to those who by faith submit their lives under his rule.

Prayer Guide

  • How has God brought you victory in your life? How has he crushed your enemies? Praise the Lord for his redemption.
  • Thank God that he honors those who by faith in Jesus seek to live righteously.
  • Praise the Lord for his power, greatness, and salvation.
  • Thank the Lord that he blesses his anointed, and that by faith we get to share in the blessed victory of Jesus Christ.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 17

Have you ever been so frustrated and so hurt that all you can do is pray? Psalm 17 is a prayer of lament from King David. David is being attacked unjustly by another individual and he cries out to God in hope. How should Christians respond when we are unjustly criticized or accused of wrong doing? Well, as we look at psalm 17, David’s prayer will  help us learn to pray in such situations. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-2 - David begins crying out to God in prayer, seeking his attention. David is again expressing personal suffering unjustly, accused by his enemies.  So, he cries out to God, the great arbiter of justice, to hear his plea and case. David comes before God to plea his case, because he trusts in the judgement and justice of God. God is not fooled by the deceitful lies and subtle twisting of tongues that so often dominates the judicial courts of humanity. God has no concern for popular consensus or opinion, rather God is a God of truth. David, knowing that he has been unjustly accused has confidence to go to God, the just judge, to get the account straight.

v. 3-5 - David then begins to plead his innocence before God. He tells God that he has tried his heart. God knows everything there is to know about David. Whether by day or by night, God has visited him and knows it all. David challenges God to examine him and he will find innocence. Though David is accused by others, he seeks God to have the final word. David's mouth has not transgressed. He has avoided the ways of the violent. His steps have held firm on the narrow path and have not slipped.

Now David's plea for innocence does not mean that David considered himself sinless, but rather David sees himself as seeking to live righteously under the law of God. The stones that his enemies are throwing at him for sin are unjust. There are no evidence for their accusations. David pleads his case as he has been examined by God and found innocence. The accusations have nothing to do with David's own life or character, but only from the malice of the enemies.

v. 6-9 - David then turns in this next stanza to pray and call out to God. He asks for God to incline his ear and hear his words.  He knows that God is a fitting refuge for him. God is a safe place to lean on in times of tribulation. He requests that God would protect him from his enemies. David knows that God is a safe place because God has his eye on him. Indeed David is the apple of his eye. David can safely reside in the shadow of God's wings. There is no safer place to be than in the arms of the living God. From those enemies that seek David harm and who surround him, God is a refuge for him.

v. 10-12 - David then begins to ponder on the malicious aggression of his enemies.  They have no pity; they only seek to devour. They are predators on the prowl. They surround like a pack of wolves, bent on bringing their prey to the ground. They are like lions lurking in the shrubs waiting to pounce and tear a part David's flesh.

Sometimes as Christians we will have enemies just like the ones David had. There is a hatred and an intention to destroy at any cost. As the church becomes increasingly marginalized in our country, we too will feel the deadly blood-thirst of our enemies as they plot our destruction. Sometimes following Christ, means making enemies, not because you are seeking to make them, but rather because following God runs contrary to the ways of the world. Therefore, men and women of evil and blindness begin to gather, lurk, and tear apart the people of God.

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v. 13-14 - Here, God is summoned for action. "Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!" This man who has such vicious hatred for David is to be taken out. David is crying out for deliverance from this man. Then the Psalm moves to some profound reflections on the nature of the wicked and the hope of the righteous. Men, who are like David's accuser, find hope only in this life. Though wicked men among us might be financially prosperous and wield great worldly success, that is the extent of their hope. Their portion is only in this life. Though they may have children, their riches cannot go with them to the grave. Their abundance is passed down to their children.

One of the great questions is the prosperity of the wicked? Why are so many wicked people so visibly prosperous while so many good and righteous people are in poverty? Well, David begins to look at things from God's perspective. Though the wicked might enjoy 70 years of wealth, comfort, and power, what is 70 years compared to 100 billion years? Even 100 billion is but a scratch on the surface to the unfathomable idea of eternity. David begins to recognize that his hope is not in a comfortable life now, but his hope is in a life to come.

v. 15 - David's confidence is found in God himself. He concludes his lament by reflecting on his true treasure. Though the wicked might have wealth and power, David’s hope is in the righteousness of God. Isn't that our hope as well? We don't need riches and we don't need comfort and we don't need fame. We need the righteousness of Jesus. We need God. And by the grace of God, His son is sent to liberate us from the bondage of sin and gift us with his righteousness! Our hope is not in this world, but in God himself.

So as David falls into the deep sleep of death, when he wakes he will be satisfied with likeness of God. We have this hope too. No matter what enemies might attack us, those made righteous by Christ set their hope on the life to come. Our reward is not temporal treasures, but the eternal and satisfying treasure of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer Guide

  • What enemies are attacking you? Call out to God for help.
  • Ask God to help trust him as you refuge.
  • Ask God for strength and protection from the lions.
  • Trust in God’s wisdom in confronting and subduing your enemies.
  • Regardless of what happens, ask God to help you to find hope in Christ, not in this world.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 16

Do you trust in the Lord? Is your contentment and joy so found in God that regardless of what happens in this life you have an unabashed confidence in Christ, your treasure? We tend to be unhappy people. We complain about our the quality of our home, the number on our paycheck, or the unexpected and frustrating events that happen to us. We tend to always want more from this world and we become angry when God does not give it to us. David gives us a radically different perspective in Psalm 16. This psalm is a prayer of contentment, joy, and trust in God alone. As we study this prayer, may God gives us this sort of attitude in our prayers and in our life. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-2 - The Psalm begins with a cry of trust. “Preserve me!”, the psalmist cries. The Lord is his refuge. God is the one in whom all his trust lies. Whatever crisis we face, we must display an unrelenting trust in God, because he is our Lord. David recognizes that any good in his life comes directly from God himself. “I have no good apart from you” (v. 2).

We are quick to take credit for the good things that happen to us. We tend to praise ourselves for any good thing that happens to us, and blame God for any wrong. So when we get that promotion at work, we will praise our own handwork and dedication. We pat ourselves on our back and praise our accomplishment. Yet, David understands that any good in his life was not achieved by his own might, but by the gracious gifting of God. Apart from the loving and providential hand of God we would posses nothing good in life. All of it is from him.

We would be wise like David, to recognize God’s sovereign rule over our lives knowing that he rules it all. Because of his divine power over this world and over our personal lives, it is fitting to place our trust in him. He is an excellent refuge, fortified and strong.

v. 3-4 - David then goes on to describe his delight to be around the people of God. He delights in the saints of the land, the people of Israel. It is a joy to be around the Lord’s beloved. Yet, for those who run after false gods and idols, the psalmist does not participate in their pagan worship. He refuses to participate in idolatry.

David’ prefers to surround himself with the people of God. Though we must be careful not to live in a holy bubble as a church, we too should long to surround ourselves with God’s people. When we gather together for prayer, for worship, or for communion, the community of saints produces joy. We should delight in one another, because we delight in the holiness of God. In our lives we should seek active participation in the holy community and not participate in the false worship of a secular culture. David’s trust in God is proven by his delight in God’s people.

v. 5-6 - “You hold my lot.” God holds our very life in his hands. In verse 5 and 6, David expresses a contentment in his life, knowing that the Lord is in control. His lot is in his hands. God is so sovereign that he causes the dice to land. Sometimes life seem so random and chaotic, doesn’t it? But, David understands, and so should we, that God is the one who causes the lines to fall in our lives. Every door that is shut in our face or every door that is opened—all of it is decided by God himself. For David this is comforting and it gives him a robust contentment. Because his lot is decided by God, it allows him to be truly joyous with where God has him. He is not asking the “what if” question in the back of his mind. Rather, he sees his life and where he is as God’s will for him, and as he thinks about how God has directed his life he concludes that he has received a “beautiful inheritance”. Though David’s life was far from perfect, and though we too can have some rough areas of difficulty, we have been blessed far beyond what we deserve. The good in our life—from listening to the laughter of our children to sipping a warm cup of coffee on a cool summer morning—all of this is God’s beautiful inheritance towards us. Rather than cursing God for what isn’t, we should praise God for what he has given. When we begin to understand that the only thing we deserve is death, we begin to look at our life through the lens of gratitude to God. Then and only then, will God begin to give us a supernatural contentment as we stand in awe of God’s gracious provision for us.

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v. 7-8 - David’s trust in God gives him comfort and confidence. He receives comfort as the Lord gives him counsel. God instructs him and teaches him. The Lord is always before him and guiding him. The Lord isn’t absent from his life but very present. He is at his right hand. Therefore the comfort of his presence leads to confidence.

One of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture is the comfort of God’s presence in our life. Knowing that God is with us and that he does not abandon us, gives us a ferocious courage when life’s challenges begin to pile up into a mountainous wall. Our comfort and confidence is found in the Lord.

v. 9-10 - What is the result of this comfort and confidence in the Lord? Deeply satisfying gladness and joy. Like a fountain that runs over is the joy of our hearts when we trust in the Lord. We receive joy, because we know that regardless of the lot we have been given, that our flesh dwells secure. There is no need to fear whatever suffering, persecution, or martyrdom awaits us. When we have this sort of unwavering confidence in God’s rule over our life, it fills our hearts with joy. Whether we are thrown in a dark jail cell for preaching Christ in a closed country or whether we are beheaded by ISIS for following Jesus, for the Christian joy abounds. Because, when we put our trust in God, our flesh is secure though we may lose our own heads for his glory.

How can this be? Well it is through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The apostle Paul in his sermon in Acts 13:35 references Psalm 16:10 as evidence pointing to the resurrection of Christ. It is written, “You will not let your holy one see corruption”. Jesus Christ experienced the horrors and death of the crucifixion. It is there that his flesh was nailed and his blood poured out. Even still, Jesus went to the cross with joy accepting the lot that God had given him. Though, God does not allow his holy one to see corruption. Jesus paid the price for our sins and absorbed the excruciating torment of the crucifixion, and it was God who raised him from the dead. God did not abandon his son to Sheol, but raised him from the grave on the third day!

For the Christian, who has trusted in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, we have this same hope. Because of Jesus, God will not abandon our soul to Sheol. Death has lost its power. It is a defeated foe. Therefore, regardless of what believers face in this life whether filled with worldly blessings or whether filled with thistles and thorns, there is still unceasing joy for the Christian. The joy of the Christian is not found in our circumstances but found in God himself. Because God comforts us with his presence it gives us confidence knowing, that whatever our lot may be, it is well with our soul, because our life is found in the resurrected glory of Jesus Christ. Though we may lose our heads, our flesh dwells secure in Christ. Therefore our hearts are glad and rejoice in the unshakeable confidence and hope we have in the resurrection of Christ!

v. 11 - The conclusion of this Psalm is filled with joy. God has made known to us the path to true life, a life of joy and contentment. The path to truly living is not found in hedonistic pleasure or materialistic wealth of the world, but in the hedonistic wealth of the pleasure of God’s presence. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasure for evermore” (v. 11). God by his great grace and mercy, through Jesus, brings us into the fullness of joy in his presence. When we live with Jesus as our all consuming treasure, he is the satisfaction for which we long. He is the oasis of rest. He is the pearl of great price. Praise be to God that in Christ we receive the fullness of joy. May we trust in Christ by faith to receive this great salvation purchased for us, and in our Christian life may we display such trust in God—that regardless of our present circumstances—that the fullness of joy in God would dwell within our hearts. For we know, that God will not let his holy ones, sanctified by the blood of Christ, see the corruption of hell. He will not abandon us in death. But, at the moment of our last breath we will experience the totality of the fullness of joy as we stand in the satisfying and glorious presence of God as we enjoy the pleasure at his right hand forevermore.

Prayer Guide

  • Are you trusting in God in whatever you are facing? Ask God to help you trust in him as your refuge?
  • Do you delight in God’s holy people? Ask God to give you a joy in the community of the saints.
  • Thank God for the “beautiful inheritance” he has given you. Praise him, knowing that apart from him, you would possess no good in this life.
  • Express thankfulness for the comfort of his presence and the confidence you possess knowing that he is at your right hand.
  • Thank the Lord for Christ, who by his resurrected glory gifts us with a gladness that fills up our whole being.
  • Ask the Lord to give you a trust and contentment with Christ as your treasure.
  • Praise the Lord that through Jesus he brings you into his divine presence where your joy is full and infinity satisfying.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 15

How can man be with God? Who can come before His presence? We tend to ignore the importance of that question. We live in a world in which many people deny the transcendent. Functionally, many people live as if there is no God. So why would they wonder how they can be in his presence? Yet, this is the most fundamental question. Who can come before the presence of God? As we look at another Psalm of David, we are going to see David meditate on just this question. IMG_0500

Commentary

v. 1 - The Psalm begins with two parallel questions. "O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?" The question presupposes something foundational—not every human being will be accepted before God in his glorious presence. The idea of the tent David mentions draws our attention to the tabernacle that was used during the wilderness years. The tabernacle served as the home of the very presence of God in the midst of the encamped people. Later, Solomon would be a temple, place on that holy hill. The tabernacle/temple dynamic in the Old Testament serves as an important tool in teaching us about God and his presence.

First, God is distinct and holy. The innermost part of the temple was the holy of holies. It was the most sacred space. Only the high priest could enter in to make a sacrifice. He would only enter once a year after extensive purification and preparation. To enter into that place was gloriously terrifying. God is holy and untouchable.

Second, We are defiled and unclean. Because of our sin, we cannot simply waltz into the presence of God as we would stroll about our homes. God provided strict rules of who was allowed to come into his presence. The reason for this is because we are sinners. Our rebellion causes separation between us and God.

So as we look at this in the canon of Scripture, “who shall dwell on your holy hill?”—the answer is no human being. We have all fallen short. We have all sinned. Yet, we know that God makes a way. He cleanses us from our sin, not through the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but through the final sacrifice for all, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was through the death of the Lord Jesus that the thick curtain that separated the holy of holies was ripped in two. For those who come clothed in the righteousness of Jesus by faith, they may enter into the very presence of God.

So this psalm does not intended to show us how to be saved, as that is not its purpose. If we were to read it in that way we would severely misunderstand its meaning and wrongly conclude that all it takes is to be a good person. Yet, that is not what David is trying to teach us. David knew that he is not blameless. The man was a murderer and adulterer. Just read David's psalm of confession in psalm 51.

So what is the purpose of this psalm? This psalm was most likely sung by the people of Israel as they would gather at the temple for worship. It was a song of personal reflection and heart examination. Am I coming to God with the ideal heart for worship?

As Christians, we gather into worship on Sunday morning in a trivial and lackadaisical manner. We enter into worship with little self reflection and little confession. We truly don't prepare our hearts for worship. Unfortunately churches have become in practice like the theater. A group of people socializing and taking there seats getting ready to watch the show. Yet, Psalm 15 instructs us that when we come to worship we must examine ourselves.

v. 2-5b - David then begins to give a list of inner characteristics that describe a true worshiper. The inner and personal holiness of a Christian is vital for true worship. Yes, we are not saved by our works. Yet, Christ Jesus didn't save us to leave us as sinners. Rather, as Christians we embark on a journey of sanctification. Though we cannot reach perfection in this life, the end goal is that we will one day worship God in complete purity and personal holiness. As we worship God today, we must seek to worship him in the inner purity of our heart and life. Where there is sin we must confess it and repent. We must seek to become, by the Spirit's power, true worshipers of the Lord.

So what sort of character does David describe? Well, a true worshiper walks blamelessly and does what is right. He speaks truth in his heart. What a beautiful combination! A true worshiper of God loves the truth and sound doctrine, yet lives it out in his daily life as he walks blamelessly.

The true worshiper also speaks the truth. He does not slander or speak evil to his neighbor. His relationships with other people are upright. He doesn't tear people down and he doesn't use people for his own selfish gain. A true worshiper possesses a reputation for honesty by those around him.

A true worshiper also despises evil. He has a love for those who fear and love the Lord. He honors those who fear God while despising those who are vile. This person keeps his promises and he does not back out of them though it might end up being personally costly to him. In the words of Jesus, his yes is yes and his no is no. He generously treats all people fairly, not even charging interest to others. He is just and refuses to take a bribe.

The person David describes is morally upright, solid in character, loving in personal relationships, and known for his personal integrity. This is the kind of person that can come and truly worship the Lord. As we read these sort of character traits they give us pause. Am I such a man or woman? In Christ, am I becoming someone who walks blamelessly? Who speaks truth? Who is generous and loves justice? The answer, if we are honest, is this: we still have a long ways to go. By God's grace may he form us into this type of worshiper as he conforms us to the image of his perfect son Jesus Christ.

As we read this list of inner character traits, only Jesus alone could fulfill them. If these are the requirements of entering in to the tent of God's presence, than he alone could enter in without fear. Yet, by the substitutionary death of Jesus, God gives us Jesus’ perfect record of righteousness. Now, by the Spirit's work, God is transforming us into who we now are in Christ.

v. 5b - The last sentence tells us the sort of confidence this sort of worshiper can have. "He who does these things shall never be moved." For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and who daily seek personal holiness, we can have great confidence. We will not be shaken and we will not be moved. Through the love of Christ and the gracious work of the preserving and sanctifying work of the holy Spirit one day we will see God face to face in all his glory.

As you come into worship this upcoming Sunday, remember it is a foretaste of heavenly realities. Examine your heart. Come prepared for worship. Seek holiness and justice in your life, and know that it is only through Jesus that you shall dwell on that holy hill in worship.

Prayer Guide

  • Thank God for Jesus and for his grace in granting you access to the Father.
  • Ask the Lord to reveal to you hidden sin. Examine yourself.
  • Ask the Lord to help you seek personal holiness and to grow in the image of Jesus Christ
  • Thank God that through Jesus you can come before God in confidence.