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!
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, in your great goodness; *
according to the multitude of your mercies wipe away my offences.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.
From his palace roof King David saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba. He was overcome with desire and committed adultery with her. King David had her husband, Uriah the Hittite, killed by sending him into the front lines of battle. His plot to cover up his sin seemed fool proof and he took Bathsheba as his wife. God however was not fooled. He sent the prophet Nathan to confront the King with his sin. Psalm 51 is king David’s lament over his sinfulness
We can appreciate the divine mercy only when we come to terms with our own sinfulness. King David committed grievous sins. Murder and adultery are nothing to be flippant about. God treats David’s actions as a rebellion against the divine will and lordship. Sin is always a rebellion against God. David only saw his sinfulness for what it was when God revealed it to him. It was then that David was able to see his dire need for salvation and grace.
The remarkable words of Psalm 51 come from a broken and contrite heart. It is a heart that yearns for God and His goodness. It is a soul that longs for the washing and healing that only God can bring. The good news is that God does bring this healing to all that ask. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus and our trust in Him that we find wholeness.
I wonder if God has revealed to you secret sins that need forgiveness? Be bold as David was bold and confess them before the Lord. “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you shall not despise.” Psalm 51:17
The Lord is King; let the peoples tremble;*
He sits between the cherubim; let the earth shake.
Why would the God of the universe take the title of king? This seems like such an earthly title below the divine presence but this is indeed how God wants us to relate with Him. He is King. Much of what Jesus did related to His kingship. Jesus hung on the cross accused of being a rival to Caesar and the king of the Jews. Indeed the kingship of God is vitally important for how we understand what God is doing.
The great theologian John Calvin comments that the kingship of Jesus leads to a divine governance. The people of the Church are rightly directed and governed by the Spirit of Christ. He leads them to bring about His justice and mercy. He gives the church vocation and organization. Perhaps even more significant is the way our divine King defends His church. He is a warrior king committed to our defense and victory even at His own expense. Sin and death and all the forces and powers of the world cannot stand against His mighty power. As our king, He wields this power to our defense. He rescues us from death and the grave. Indeed our God is king! Let us tremble before him.
I heard a Christian speaker once say that God desires his people to be wealthy! At first glance this seems ridiculous. If we have Jesus we have all that we need! Does God care about our personal wealth and fortune? Is it selfish to ask for God’s blessing? Is it selfish to ask for houses, cars, good jobs and a prosperous life? The Psalmist writes for the people of Israel and says,
1 May God be merciful unto us, and bless us, *
and show us the light of his countenance, and be merciful unto us.
The psalmist humbly asks for God’s blessing for his people. In verse 5 we see that this blessing looks like an increase or abundance! This abundance is for a greater purpose. It is not for our own self gratification but that we can join God in giving and in healing the nations.
2 Let your way be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.
When God blesses us with an increase we have the ability to tell others about God’s goodness through giving. We can let the good and loving ways of our God “be know upon earth.” When we are generous with our time, talent and treasure we share in God’s mission to bring saving health to all the nations!
What abundance has God blessed you with? What abundance might you need to bless others? Pray with our Psalmist that the Lord would bless us so that we might be a blessing to those around us.
What troubles you today? What worries or fears occupy space in your mind? Our fear and worry can often get the better of us and become a controlling force in our life. I knew a woman who was terrified of an upcoming doctor's appointment. In her mind she envisioned the the worst possible outcome and she was already living as if that was true. She became hysterical with fear and worry and tried to skip the appointment! The psalmist speaks to these overwhelming fears when he writes,
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? *
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
As Christians we know that God is always present but do we know that God is always good? The Psalmist reminds us that in the midst of our fears God is our light, salvation and strength! God goes with us into all the dark and difficult times of our lives and he brings his light. When we are weak he is our strength. When we do not see a way forward He is our salvation! The presence of God in our lives is often the cause of great fear and rightly so! But our faith in God’s love and goodness is what drives out all the external fears. Today, take stock of your worries and fears and lay them before the Lord who loves you. Let Him be your light, salvation and strength of your life!