“I pray to you, O Lord, My rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You are silent, I might as well give up and die. Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to You for help, as I lift my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.” Psalms 28:1-2 NLT
To David, his relationship with God was so important, so profound, that if God was to ever withdraw from that relationship, David said he might as well stop living. We don’t know what David was praying about, though we get a few clues later in the Psalm, but at this critical moment in his life, he felt as though the heavens were made of brass and his petitions were falling on deaf ears. But as we read down this Psalm, we find that God did answer him. He writes in verses 6 and 7, “Praise the Lord! For He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”
So the question is, how important is my relationship with God? If the heavens were closed to my prayers and petitions, what would I think and do? Would I give up, spiritually speaking? It’s a sobering thought, but, like David, I can praise Him this morning because a theme of God’s love for me runs through the Bible, like letters through a stick of seaside rock. He says that I am His child (1 John 3:1). He says He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). He reassures me that there is nothing I should be anxious about (Philippians 4:6-7). And so on. There are many such reassuring verses throughout the Bible. So this morning, I can praise and worship my Father, my Saviour God with a grateful heart. Can you?
“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalms 27:13-14 NLT
In spite of all his trials and attacks from people who were out to get him, David, the psalmist, continued to have confidence in the Lord, his God. You see, he had made the connection between life here on planet earth, and his life secured and assured for him with God Himself. And more, David had confidence in his expectation that the Lord’s goodness would extend from the Heavenly realm into his earthly bubble. All he had to do was wait patiently, something that he apparently needed courage to do.
Once again I am in a place of intersection between the the land of the living and the land of the dead. My aunt, the sole remaining member of my mother’s generation, passed over “the great divide” a few days ago. Her spirit has now taken up residence somewhere else, where her options for eternity are limited. Her spirit is dependent now on the Lord’s mercy and decisions she made “in the land of the living”. Her options for experiencing the “Lord’s goodness” in this life have ceased. She had heard the Gospel many times during her long life, but did she know Jesus?
So what lessons can I learn from these final two verses in Psalm 27? For me, I see the necessity of keeping close to God, being in His presence, making right choices, being confident that He loves me and wants to bless me “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3). My pilgrimage through “the land of the living” involves looking out expectantly for the “Lord’s goodness” to me with patience and courage. Fending off all the enemy’s attacks in the knowledge that I don’t have to listen to his lifeless message from the land of the dead. Father God I am so grateful for Your presence in “the land of the living”, enabling You to be accessible to all.
“My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”” Psalms 27:8 NLT
What an amazing verse! That the Creator of the universe and all that is in it would want to talk to David, the Psalmist? Really? But God favours no one more than any other. David’s experience of dialogue with God wasn’t just for him – it’s for everyone. And note this – God initiated the conversation. So I have to face into the fact that my amazing God wants to talk to me. So how do I respond? “Sorry, God, but I’m too busy right now?” Or ”sorry, God, there’s a TV programme I need to watch?” I can invent any number of excuses. But the truth is quite clear – He wants to talk to me. There is only one response that is acceptable – “Lord, I am coming”. God knows my busy schedules. He knows what living on planet earth demands. But there will be times when He wants to talk to me and I need to turn up my spiritual receptors so that I respond in His timing, not mine.
God talks to me through His Word. Through a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit. Through a comment from a fellow pilgrim in my community of faith. But He invites me to talk with Him. To join Him in an intimate conversation devoid of religious jargon. Full of honesty and grace. And He whispers with love and mercy, what I need to hear.
God is inviting you, my friend, to talk with Him as well. How will you respond?
“The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His Temple. For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At His sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.” Psalms 27:4-6 NLT
In these three verses, David, the Psalmist, expresses his overwhelming desire to be close to God. So close in fact that he wants to be constantly in God’s presence, because it is there he has a relationship that transcends anything possible in the world around him. It is there that he gets lost in a place that doesn’t exist on planet earth. It is there that he can put aside the humdrum of human life and rise up into heavenly places. Of course, I don’t believe for a moment that he went through his life with his head in the clouds, “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. He was at this time, I believe, a monarch in waiting, surrounded by antagonists and associated problems of life, which would scupper most of us and threaten to separate us from our relationship with God. Perhaps, in David’s place, we would even be shaking our fist at the heavens, asking the question, “Why has God allowed this to happen to me”? But David found his strength, his spiritual food, in the house of the Lord, hidden in His sanctuary. And it was there that he became lost in praise and worship, in wonder and joy, in the presence of God.
And so it should be with us. What is coming against us in our earthly humanity? Life can be difficult sometimes. Just existing can be traumatic. But all the resources we need are there in God’s presence. We can park the problems of life and instead spend time with Him. The problems may not go away and will be waiting for us when we return, but by spending time with God, they perhaps become less significant and strident. And perhaps we can learn too to delight in the Lord, offering praises and singing to our wonderful Creator.
“I love Your sanctuary, Lord, the place where Your glorious presence dwells.” Psalms 26:8 NLT
There’s an old film I saw in my childhood where Quasimodo cried out, “Sanctuary, Sanctuary” in a scene from the film depiction of Victor Hugo’s book. The hunchback was claiming his right to being in a safe place, free from abuse. Or so I remember. A sanctuary is a place or state where we feel secure, and to the Psalmist, David, his sanctuary was the place where God lived. And having been brought up in an era when churches were revered, I still get a sense of peace and tranquility in a church building with stained glass windows and an altar. Perhaps I was brought up to think that God lived there.
But where does God really live? Where is His glorious presence? We are informed in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. So God lives within us. And one of Jesus’ titles was “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. And so it is. Through Jesus, God came to live on this earth, offering us the opportunity to live with Him for ever, in His “sanctuary”, eternal life. And it is in and through Jesus that we will see and experience the “glorious presence” of God. Make sure you don’t miss it, Folks.
“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in You.”
“Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” Psalms 25:21, 26:1 NLT
Two verses from adjacent Psalms. Both mentioning the word “integrity”. And both in the context of the Psalmist David’s relationship with God. The God we worship is a God of integrity, a God who is totally honest, who never lies, and He put within us the same seed of integrity. This is why if we lie, we immediately have a problem with our conscience, causing feelings of guilt which can lead ultimately to mental health issues if unaddressed. Whether human beings like it or not, within them is God’s DNA. It’s how He created us. And to this problem of a lack of honesty and integrity, the word “sin” has been ascribed. But God, in His mercy, could see the problem of sin and guilt and He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the propitiation for our sins. Through Jesus we have the remedy for sin, and the means to return back to God’s presence, to a place of integrity and honesty. Yes, there may be earthly consequences to our sins, but nevertheless, God will forgive.
It was very important to our Psalmist that God recognised his integrity, because through that he knew that God would protect him. Through that relationship, that closeness to God, he knew that he was in the best place, the place God had designed for him. And so it is with us. By reaching out to God this morning, confessing our sins before Him and allowing Him to forgive us, we too can be in that “sweet spot”, that place of relationship with God.
“Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and unfailing love, which You have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of Your unfailing love, for You are merciful, O Lord. Psalms 25:6-7 NLT
Oh dear! Those difficult days in my teen years, when I wore the badge of being a “youth”. When I said things that I shouldn’t. When I did things that hurt others. Those rebellious sins committed when I knew no better. The difficulties I encountered in those days seemed endless. But thanks to our Saviour Jesus, and His death on a cross outside Jerusalem, my youthful sins have been forgiven. But, sadly, the memories remain. Embarrassing. Uncomfortable. But why should they, because God no longer remembers them. As it says in Psalm 103:12, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” His grace, love and compassion is endless. So if I pray for forgiveness for a previously-confessed sin, God replies, “What sin? I can’t remember it.” God has forgotten it, because Jesus exchanged it for His righteousness at Calvary. Amazing. Humbling. There are not enough thankful words to describe the eternal consequences of His grace. I praise and thank You today for Your grace, love and mercy, Lord.
If you, the reader, are struggling with the weight of your sins today, reach out to our loving Heavenly Father for His forgiveness. And assure yourself a future with Him for eternity.
“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.” Psalms 25:4-5 NLT
Just for the asking, God will show us what road we should take in our pilgrimage through life. And how does He do that? According to the Psalmist David, He leads us in the right way through His truth. We have many choices in life and each one will equate in some way to “the right path”. Our choice of spouse, what career to follow, where to live – the choices before us seem endless. Sadly, sometimes a wrong choice leads to a limitation being placed on future choices. But coming back to our question about God showing us the right path, we often have a problem because, as it says in Judges 17:6, “…all the people [do] whatever [seems] right in their own eyes”. Often the strident calls of sin, of hedonistic ways, seem preferable to the “right path”.
So where do we find this “truth” that David writes about? The main source has to be God’s Word, the Bible. For it is here that the thoughts and ways of God are laid out before us. But sometimes a prophetic word from a brother or sister in our communities of faith will start the personal process of mining Biblical treasures to develop or research what God is saying to us about the choices before us.
At the end of verse 5 in today’s Psalm, David declares that his hope is in God – “all day long”. And that is the bottom line, because regardless what we come up against in our pilgrimages through life, our hope in God must prevail. This hope is the final seal on our choice to follow the “God who saves”.
“Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle.” Psalms 24:7-8 NLT
What are these “ancient doors” and “ancient gates”? The Psalmist, David, was perhaps alluding to the entrances in the walls of the ancient Jerusalem. But the thing that leapt out of the page to me was the importance of being open before God. You see, over time, I can become hardened and calloused to the things of God, fighting battles He never intended for me to fight. I remember those exciting days when I walked through the door from worldliness into God’s Kingdom. I came out of a dark place into one of light and clarity. A place where spiritual understanding finally emerged into my world of hopeless confusion. A place where Jesus took up residence in my heart. But over time I can lose the wonder of being in God’s Kingdom and forget what He has done for me. So perhaps the hinges and locks of my spiritual doors need some lubrication. Perhaps some repairs are also required, with thoughts and attitudes brought under the gaze of the Master Builder. But whatever is required, I need to be open before God, so that He can enter at any time. And the Lord, invincible in battle, will strengthen me in my pilgrimage through life, helping me to fight battles that otherwise would be too great for me to win.
So to myself this morning I say, “Open up ancient gates! Open up ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.”
“Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their Saviour. Such people may seek You and worship in Your presence, O God of Jacob.” Psalms 24:3-6 NLT
I heard yesterday that a man I know and love has a stage 4 cancer and is without any treatment options. He is only a young man in his thirties and is a fine Christian with a young family. The initial reaction I had was sadness for him and his family, but then I thought, of anyone I know, he ticks the boxes in the verses we read today. So I am going to help him climb the mountain that is before him, praying him through every challenge that he encounters. I know that God can heal him and restore him to his family. Please join me in praying for him, expectant that God will answer our prayers.