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!