The sacrifice of thanksgiving. This is what the psalmist offers the Lord in response to all that the Lord has done. To worship the Lord does require some sacrifice! Something of ourselves must be brought to the temple and offered before the Lord. This makes our worship meaningful and personal. Sacrifice doesn’t always mean something painful or difficult. Perhaps we are not used to thinking of thanksgiving as sacrifice. Often we sacrifice a great deal for the ones we love but do not see it as sacrifice but a joy! We spent our time, talents and treasures freely on our family and friends. This is a sacrifice but a joyful one! This week as we ponder the gift of Easter I wonder what sacrifice you might bring to the Lord? How might you offer something of yourself to the Lord as a response to all that He has done for you?
11 What shall I give unto the Lord *
for all the benefits that he has done unto me?
12 I will lift up the cup of salvation *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
13 I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all his people; *
dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
14 O Lord, I am your servant; *
I am your servant, and the child of your handmaid; you have broken my bonds asunder.
15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and will call upon the Name of the Lord.
16 I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the sight of all his people, *
in the courts of the Lord’s house, even in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!
What does it mean to fear the Lord?
God is to be feared. This doesn’t mean that we run away in terror from the Lord! God is not a character in a horror film. Fear is an appropriate response to God’s almighty power. Fear used appropriately gives us a healthy respect for the Lord. As I teach my children to use power tools to cut and shape wood I want them to know the great power these tools have. A bit of fear keeps them focused, disciplined and safe!
The Psalmist says that we start to have wisdom when we fear the Lord! It is God's power that creates and sustains us. His power is the power of life. We are completely beholden to God for all that we have. Understanding God’s power over us should create some fear. We have no control or ability to sustain ourselves. This fear causes us to turn our attention to the Lord. He becomes the focus of our life and all other cares and worries become distractions. This is truly the beginning of wisdom.
What fears do you have in life? Are those fears greater than God? Give these fears over to the Lord trusting in His power and begin a journey of wisdom!
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, *
and are so far from my cry, and from the words of my complaint?
This Psalm was first written by King David during a time of anguish and distress. When his need is greatest God feels far from him. Yet David has not given up faith or hope. He still calls out to “my God”. Regardless of his own sense of abandonment during a painful moment he knows God is worthy of his cry and his trust.
As Christians, these words bring a silent awe. Coming from the lips of our savior they are the cry of a Son to a Father. It is hard to understand why any father would abandon their beloved except for the sake of another beloved. Our savior suffered this abandonment for our sake. The true nature of death's pain is not just the physical pain but the deep sense of absence. Death is the great divider of bodies and souls. After death we no longer see and feel the ones we love. For Jesus to become completely human means that he had to experience death to its fullest extent. He was cut off from the living. Our Father is the living God and he gave his son over to the separation of death. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus still calls to the living God and places his trust in Him even when the future seems bleak. St Luke along with the other gospel writers interprets Jesus' cry as a yielding of His Spirit to His Father. Even in death Jesus is faithful to His father. Even in death Jesus proclaims his love and unity with humanity.
These are difficult times for many of us. We each have our unique worries and fears. Perhaps you feel like you are suffering alone. Like you have been abandoned or forgotten. Our Lord Jesus understands this feeling. The cross tells us that He has not abandoned us! He journeys with us even into despair, loneliness and death so that we might share in His love, His presence, and His life. Jesus cries out to His Father, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” so that we will never have to.
1 Out of the deep have I called unto you, O Lord; *
Lord, hear my voice.
2 O let your ears consider well *
the voice of my supplications.
3 If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could abide it?
4 For there is mercy with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.
5 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my trust.
6 My soul waits for the Lord, *
more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, *
and with him is plenteous redemption;
8 And he shall redeem Israel *
from all their sins.
The psalmist pictures himself struggling in deep waters. His foot cannot touch the ground. Nothing is safe or secure and he has nothing to grab a hold of. He is surrounded by the deep. The Old Testament uses the metaphor of the deep to describe anything that is in chaos. Genesis tells us that before the world had a form the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the deep. (Gen 1:2) Chaos does not come from the Lord but it is from chaos that the Lord brings His order.
We don’t know what kind of chaos the psalmist was in but we do know his response. He cried out to the Lord. It is in his cry that the Psalmist finds some stability. He has found something solid to hold on to. The distress of the chaos fades knowing that God is listening and He is merciful. (v. 4)
What is left to do after crying out? Wait on the Lord! This is perhaps the most difficult part. The Psalmist knows that he must surrender all hopes of bringing about his own salvation and put his full trust in the coming of God. His very soul waits for the Lord. The sense of longing is profound. He waits for the Lord as one who stays up all night looking at the horizon hoping to see the sun’s first rays. After long hours of cold and dark your whole being is fixated on the coming of that light.
I wonder if you can relate to this psalmist? It is easy to see chaos around us and to feel powerless in our attempts to manage our lives. This is especially true as we sit at home and wait for an unseen virus to attack. We learn from Psalm 130 that the Lord is quick to hear us even in the deep. After crying out to our Lord we place our trust in Him by waiting for His mighty salvation.
This week may we faithfully wait for the Lord to come and save His people!
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Still waters. This is where the Lord is trying to lead us. It is hard to drink when the river is wild and busy. The Lord brings His sheep to a place of calm so that they might enjoy His provision and His presence.
In this strange time of everything shutting down perhaps it is a good time to take stock of how busy our lives are. In a culture where being busy proves your worth it is hard to sit by the still waters of the Lord. Our worth is not found in what we do but in whose we are. The Lord calls us to serve Him but he does not call us to busyness. As we sit in our homes and contemplate all that we need to do, or wish we could do, let us remember that the Lord leads his sheep to still waters. Be still before the Lord and let that be enough for today.