My Favorite Psalm

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth. I do not sit with deceitful men, nor will I go with pretenders. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I shall wash my hands in innocence, and I will go about Your altar, O LORD, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders. O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells. Do not take my soul away along with sinners, nor my life with men of bloodshed, in whose hands is a wicked scheme, and whose right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; Redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on a level place; In the congregations I shall bless the LORD.” (Psalm 26)

If I would have to choose a psalm which has/had the most impact on my life it would have to be Psalm 26. Why? Simply because I would love to be able to say this for myself. I long for it! David’s statements are incredible! I mean, to ask the LORD to prove his innocence?! Come on, “There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 53:3b). I think verse 8 is my favorite: “O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells.” This is an amazing verse to meditate on and to be used for when you want to worship God, when you are thankful to God, when you feel the beauty of Christ’s completed work in your life, when you repent, etc. I need to be reminded often of this psalm and its beauty and its truth, and renew my mind with it. Wouldn’t it be a great testimony to God for generations to come if my epitaph would say something like: “Here lies Marc. A godly man who walked with integrity and trusted in the LORD without wavering”? Oh well, there is a long way to go, but “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)

Psalm #6 – Confidence Through Pain

LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O LORD – how long? Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; it has become old because of all my adversaries. Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, for the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD has heard my supplication, the LORD receives my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; they shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed” (Psalm 6:1-10)

David is in pain. Serious physical pain. Great affliction. And his sickness brought sin to his remembrance, and he views it as God’s displeasure against him. And yet the affliction, the pain, the suffering, the sickness is all bearable if he has comfort in his soul. Wow! Jesus speaks about this a couple of times in the gospels. “‘Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’” (Matthew 10:28), “‘Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Matthew 11:29), and “‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:26). Even He Himself experienced His soul being deeply grieved to the point of death (Matthew 26:38) the night before His crucifixion in the garden of Gethsemane where He asks Peter, James and John to pray for Him. None of us like to suffer nor do we wish it on someone else, yet man is a sinner and sin leads to death. We should indeed me more worried about the one who is able to destroy the body and the soul than merely the body.

I am reminded here of the apostle Paul who went through great trials and sufferings for the sake of the Gospel, enduring physical pain, beating, imprisonment. And yet when you read his letter to the church of Philippi it is a letter full of joy. In Philippians 1:21-26 Paul says: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” To depart and be with Christ is the best thing that could happen for those who believe in Him, but to abide in the flesh is more profitable for the church.

We see the same attitude also in David. He made his request known to God, and is now confident that his sorrow will be turned into joy. We should all have this confidence when faced with pain. Of course we can and should pray that we don’t have to go through it. Are we not to pray: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13)? Even Jesus Himself prayed “‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’” (Matthew 26:39), but He was sure to add “yet not as I will, but as You will.” Our joy should be found in our soul, not in our body. And I am curious if we undergo a lifelong pursuit of finding joy in our soul by focusing on the glory of God, if indeed in times when we experience physical suffering of any kind we can still be joyful. Food for thought.

Psalm #5 – Draw Close, It’s Your Destiny!

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me. There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5)

Approaching God
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalm 5:1-3)
David makes it abundantly clear that he wants to talk to God. He calls for His attention three times! What I think is interesting is that David specifically says that he prays to God. Now this sounds kind of silly to say, but I do think it sort of affirms David’s awareness that he is approaching his holy Father, that we request to be in His presence. The fact that we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16) does not mean that we should confuse confidence with arrogance. Charles H. Spurgeon said about morning prayer: “This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul.” The idea behind direct is not “to aim” but “to order, to arrange.” It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: ‘I will arrange my prayer before thee;’ I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. So just as we put lay our request before God before we pray, we should eagerly watch afterwards expectantly to heaven for God to answer.

Drawing Closer to Holiness
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me.” (Psalm 5:4-8)
The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more we become aware of His holiness and our sinfulness. A direct result of our efforts of approaching the definition of holiness, God Himself. “This is a good way to measure how well you are praying and whether, as you pray, you are drawing close to God or are merely mouthing words. If you are drawing close to God, you will become increasingly sensitive to sin, which is inevitable since the God you are approaching is a holy God.” (Boice). But look at David’s confidence! Yet he doesn’t rely on his own righteousness or holiness, but his confidence is grounded in the mercy of God. And look at David’s humility! He recognizes or acknowledges that his godliness is a result of God’s mercy and power and work in him, and not of his own strength.

Two Destinies
There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:9-12)
Wickedness is displayed in what a man says. Jesus said: “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34), and James said: “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6,8). David prays that He will hold them guilty, to let them fall, to thrust them out for their rebellion. But the righteous, the ones who put their trust in God (and not just pay lip service) should rejoice! Let them sing for joy, and find shelter and a shield in the LORD. And what a great blessing it is to find favor in the LORD! Knowing that God says: “This is my child, in whom I am well pleased”. Awesome!

Psalm #4 – Of God and Men

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD. Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety” (Psalm 4)

David Talks to God
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1)
On the surface it looks like David is commanding God to answer, because He is not. But that is not the case. There is passion in David’s cry to the LORD. He is not trying to persuade or command God to answer, but he is expressing passion. God wants us to care about the things that He cares about. Isaiah says “there is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities” (Isaiah 64:7). David is calling on His name and is arousing himself to take hold of God. I love how it says “You have relieved me in my distress”. Looking at the Hebrew text gives in a more visual picture I think. The Hebrew word for “relieved” is “rachab,” which means “broad or roomy pasture”. The Hebrew word for “distress” is “tsar,” which means “narrow, tight”. The Message translates this as “Once, in a tight place, you gave me room; now I’m in trouble again: grace me! hear me!“. And so we see that God answers prayer and that we can call upon the LORD always in times of trouble, for He will relieve us in our distress.

David Talks to Men
Sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him” (Psalm 4:2-3)
David shifts gear and addresses the ungodly men, questioning how long his glory would turn to shame. But we should also ask this ourselves when we are on a course that is compromising. How long will I play around with this sin? How long will I love something that is not building up treasure in heaven? How long will I continue not only being deceived but actually seeking deception? But know (find out, discern, know by experience) that the LORD has set apart the godly men for Himself. What a beautiful realization! To really know that the LORD has set you apart. And what an assurance we have that the LORD hears when we call on Him! We should be confident that God answers our prayers. And when we see that our prayer is not answered, it would be good to figure out why. Many reasons could cause this, like not abiding in Jesus (John 15:7), unbelief (Matthew 17:20-21), unconfessed sin (James 5:16), or a lack of Bible reading and teaching (Proverbs 28:9).

David Talks to Himself
Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD. Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:4-8)
We are in the same situation as David, and that is that we are surrounded by ungodliness. Seeing this ungodliness could (or sometimes should) be reason to be angry, but yet we never have a reason to sin. We should take the same advice as David gave himself, and that is to turn to God and meditate within our heart, filling our heart and mind with God’s Word. Being surrounded by ungodliness could make us doubt if God will show us any good, yet David trusts the LORD that He will. He turns to God’s promise in the book of Numbers where it is written: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26). Knowing that the LORD make His face shine on you should put gladness in your heart, regardless of the circumstances. It should make you sleep well at night, knowing that the LORD bless you and keep you, “for You alone make me to dwell in safety

Psalm #3 – A God Start Of The Day

O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, ‘there is no deliverance for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.” (Psalm 3)

Psalm 3-7 form a bridge between two Messianic psalms. Whereas Psalm 2 the prophetic rejection of God’s anointed is, and Psalm 8 the ultimate victory as Man, the five psalms in between deal with the trials, sorrows, confusions, problems, and sins from Israel. Yet we see Israel’s confidence in God, their prayers for deliverance, and the promises of God.

Psalm 3 describes David’s personal experience when he had to flee from Jerusalem when Absalom, his son, rebelled against him. Absalom wanted to put his father to death. As David fled, the enemy was cursing him. The prophet Nathan had told David that God would punish him for his sins: “Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household” (2 Samuel 12:11). Why? Because David had sinned greatly, and he was not going to get away with it. Although God had forgiven David, he still had to reap the results of his sin. And it was in his own son’s rebellion that he reaped it.

What is beautiful about this psalm is that although his adversaries have increased David still turns to God and puts his trust in Him. Why? Because of God’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:8-17). He calls on his God, his shield, his glory, his sustainer, his savior to save him.And my question is, do you? Do I? Do you first of all recognize that your adversaries have increased? Are you fully aware of the war that you are in? Yes, we have been saved from God’s ultimate judgment. Yes, Jesus defeated Satan. But that doesn’t mean that the war is over. We are at war! And if you don’t recognize or acknowledge that than you will lose ground daily, and youwill not experience that you are no longer a slave to sin. Yet you are not freed from the presenceof sin. That’s the war that we are fighting, daily. Your adversaries are increasing, like David’s,and the best that you can do is turn to God and ask Him to be your shield, your protector.

David said that he lay down and slept. And so this psalm can be considered a morning psalm. How do you think your day will go if each morning you pray this prayer to God? Do you think that your adversaries stand a fighting chance? I think not! Have I turned to God? I am afraid to say I haven’t. I do feel that my adversaries have increased. I would almost say exponentially. And I feel I haven’t turned to God to be my protector, and I need to repent of that. Why? Because I cannot do it on my own. Salvation belongs to the LORD, and His blessing is upon His people!

Selah.