“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalms 34:4 NLT
What makes us afraid? With some it is the dark. With others it is spiders, or snakes or some other small animal. In today’s Covid-ridden world it is the fear of contracting the virus. In North Korea Christians are afraid that the authorities will find out about their faith. Some people are afraid of what others think about them, or what they are saying about them on social media. The list is endless. And any fear can be paralysing. Debilitating. Life changing. Some fears are irrational, the result of childhood conditioning. But others are very real and can lock people into a prison with no release in sight.
The verse we are reading in Psalm 34 gives a chink of light to those gripped in the clutches of fear. It says that through our relationship with God we can bring our fears into His presence through prayer, and, in expectant faith, we can receive His answer. A gentle touch. Reassurance. Encouragement. And before us He will open fear’s prison doors and release us. And the mental prison we have built in our minds will evaporate like the morning dew before the warmth of His love. But this can be a continuing process because fearful humans have a tendency to rebuild their prisons during unguarded moments, entering once again the familiarity of their prison cells. The Bible has many verses about fear and God gives us much encouragement through His Word. Let’s read together another great verse about fear this time from the Amplified Bible version. “Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.” Psalms 23:4 AMP
So today, I reach out to God for His help with my fears, and I encourage You to do the same. And our loving Heavenly Father will answer our prayers. And set us free.
“The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”” Psalms 32:8-9 NLT
Life consists of a series of choices and decisions that can literally make or break us and shape, for good or bad, who or what we are or become. In the current generation and in Western society, there are a wealth of opportunities, particularly for the young. But they will gradually dwindle if wrong choices are made. For example, someone who doesn’t do well at school or wastes educational opportunities will find that their choices for employment when they leave school will be much more limited than they would have been otherwise. Similarly, if wrong choices are made regarding a partner in marriage, then the repercussions could reverberate through the following years. How many times do we hear a conversation start with an, “If only I had ….”.
These two verses in Psalm 32 are interesting, because they provide a counter-cultural opportunity for those who are willing to trust God with their lives. You see, God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what is best for us because He made us. He knows the optimum way for our lives and has promised to guide us through life, leading us away from the pitfalls that will trip us up and trap the unwary. His advice is faultless and amazingly, He will watch over us as we live out our lives.
But there is another amazing thing that happens for those who trust in Him. He will gently lead us away from danger without us even knowing He is doing it. I look back over my life and, in hindsight, I see the hand of God gently leading me away from wrong decisions or wrong choices. And even when I have ignored His advice and fallen into error, He has helped me get back on the right path.
We have a God who cares for us, who loves us, and, as this Scripture says, will lead and guide us through our pilgrimage through life. Sometimes, I wonder why people would rather be like “a senseless horse or mule” than trust in the Living God. Hmm….
“Therefore, let all the godly pray to You while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.” Psalms 32:6 NLT
We live in an age of climate change. Whether or not we agree that global warming is caused through man’s actions, there seems to be evidence that the world is getting warmer. And there is a consequence in that sea levels are rising through the melting of the North and South ice caps. In addition, we also seem to be experiencing extreme weather events – droughts in some places but floods in others. Just over the past few weeks there have been severe floods resulting in loss of life in Europe and India. As in Noah’s day, such events underpin the reality that our lives and circumstances are things we cannot rely on. In one earthly day all will be well, but the next could be a disaster waiting to happen. An unduly negative view or the reality of life today? Thankfully there is a way to obtain life assurance, and insurance, by heeding the verse we have read today. It advises the godly (and the ungodly as well) to make their peace with God while they have that opportunity. Before their lives are snuffed out in the “floodwaters of judgement”, launching them into a future in which the choice about the location of their eternal home will be removed.
The philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, once said, “If I believe in God and life after death and you do not, and if there is no God, we both lose when we die. However, if there is a God, you still lose and I gain everything.” I know that God is alive and real, and so I would encourage you this morning to, “Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6). You won’t regret it.
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night Your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” Psalms 32:1-4 NLT
We continue our pilgrimage through the Book of Psalms with the first four verses of Psalm 32. The Psalmist, David, captures so clearly the dilemma of mankind concerning guilt. God has wired each one of us with a conscience and when we violate that conscience, terrible things can happen to us. In David’s case, it drove him into illness and depression, graphically described in the verses above. Some people spend a lot of money on counsellors and psychiatrists to try and relieve their symptoms. Others will drive the problem deep within their subconscious, suppressing the problem and hoping it will go away. Still others seem to have the strength to ignore the problem. But the guilty conscience is still there, easily resurrected by a passing thought or situation. There is only one remedy for sin and guilt, and that is by coming into God’s presence with a truly repentant heart, confessing the sins that make us feel so guilty, believing that through Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary we are washed clean of sin and are cleansed of a guilty conscience. And the peace and joy of God will flood over us, restoring us to the place God designed for us – true fellowship with Him.
Are my thoughts too simplistic? Do they ignore the consequences of confessing sins, consequences that, potentially, could impact our ways of life, our friendships, even freedom? But regardless of the consequences, I know of no other remedy to cure a soul of guilt.
“Make Your face shine upon Your servant; Save me in Your lovingkindness. Psalms 31:16 AMP
God’s shining face. What a lovely picture. A face full of illumination, transparent, translucent and attractive. A face looking at me with love, kindness and grace. A God-face on a faceless God. An expression of a God who cares for me and is interested in everything about me.
God’s shining face. Sadly in our mundane, human-bound world, God’s shining face is eclipsed by the worries and cares of life. But it’s still there, as permanent as the sun by day and the moon by night. Always ready and willing to shine on you, and me. Look carefully into the face of our Creator and see the light of his countenance, shining through. As the old song says:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
God’s shining face. Thank You, God, for shining on me today.
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever!” Psalms 30:11-12 NLT
In this Psalm, David writes about the various problems he has encountered. His enemies are giving him bother. He has become seriously ill, almost to the point of death. He has suffered financial challenges. And he ends up pleading with God for mercy. Put in those terms, it seems he suffered in a way that is not unknown in lives today. During this pandemic, people have become sick, to the point of death. Loss of employment has led to money problems. And just as in David’s case, suffering people end up in a place of mourning. A natural response.
But David ends the Psalm with the realisation that God has the answer, the remedy, to his problems. He doesn’t say that God solved all that had gone wrong, bringing healing, and restoring his prosperity. But David does move into a place of joy, realising that in God there is no place for mourning. Easy to say, but there is a key here. As we set aside the problems and instead focus on our wonderful Heavenly Father, offering Him our praise and thanks, then we will move from a place of sadness and mourning into a place of joy and worship. Perhaps even to the extent of joyful dancing. And find there is so much more to thank God for. Amen?
“When I was prosperous, I said, “Nothing can stop me now!” Your favour, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain. Then You turned away from me, and I was shattered.” Psalms 30:6-7 NLT
Where does our security lie? That question underpins these verses. And the answer is probably one of the main reasons why, in our Western society, it can be difficult to reach people with the Gospel. As in the Psalmist David’s day, personal wealth leads to pride and an overriding sense of self reliance. The pursuit of wealth drives people into a hamster-wheel materialistic life that has no room for God and His kingdom. So from that context, a relationship with God does not seem to them to be relevant. Who are the wealthy in our culture? The reality is that most people are, to a greater or lesser extent, and they find security in their comfortable lives.
But this house of cards can come tumbling down if a catastrophe occurs. A job is lost, an unexpected expense appears, investments go wrong and evaporate. And, as the Psalmist says, they are shattered. A house built on a foundation of sand will crumble during the onslaught of the storms of life.
So we thank God for our prosperity. We thank Him for His favour. But we don’t hold onto what we have so tightly that we are destroyed if it is taken away. The story of Job in the Old Testament is fascinating, and perhaps like Job we must have the attitude, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”” (Job 1:21 NLT).
“Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favour lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalms 30:4-5 NLT
These two verses in Psalm 30 capture the positive conditions of singing, praising, favour and joy. But they also include the negatives of anger and weeping. As humans we have the ability to encounter and experience many different emotions, both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Some people seem to swing from one extreme to another in their pilgrimage through life. Others seem much more emotionally stable. And in our interaction with society we encounter situations and circumstances that can invoke both negative and positive emotional responses, requiring serious personal time to process and resolve.
There is much about people that will cause God to become angry. But we are His creation. He made us with the ability to make choices, and as we observe society around us, we see the many consequences of choices, both good and bad. Some choices we make will inevitably make God angry. But He is gracious and merciful, quick to forgive and forget the sins of His repentant people. For those who have chosen to be amongst His “godly ones”, there is the exhortation to sing out His praises. And in the bubble of His favour the sorrow and weeping is replaced by morning joy.
How do you “feel” this morning? Full of joy? If not, start singing His praises and enjoy His favour. Saying that, sing His praises anyway. We can’t praise God too much.
“Honour the Lord, you heavenly beings; honour the Lord for His glory and strength. Honour the Lord for the glory of His name. Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness.” Psalms 29:1-2 NLT
This Psalm of David starts with the words, “Honour the Lord”. Other versions read “Ascribe to the Lord”. And they build a picture right at the start of how we should come into the presence of our amazing Creator God. With a reverence so deep, so significant, that we cannot do anything else than acknowledge who God is. With a realisation that He is infinitely great and we are infinitely small. That He is so holy and perfect and we are not.
I’m reminded of two things. The Lord’s Prayer right at the beginning states that our Father God lives in Heaven and we should “hallow His name”. The word “hallow” is an old fashioned verb expressing honour and respect. It contains a hint of God’s awesomeness. His lofty elevation above His creation.
Secondly, in those denominations that inhabit those ornate churches and cathedrals that can be found everywhere in our lands, there is a deep respect manifested in people who approach the altar. A respect seen in congregants bowing and prostrating themselves before an ornate and raised table, or platform, richly decorated, presumably because that is what they associate with the presence of God. And I must admit that I often feel “something” approaching this respectful stance in such places, perhaps because that is how I was raised as a child.
The Psalm says who should honour God, for what they should honour Him – His glory, strength and name – and how He should be honoured – with a worship enwrapped in His infinite and splendid holiness. And the Psalm continues as a hymn of praise underpinned by God-wonders, as many as David can think of.
What a wonderful place to be, lost in the presence of God. A place that many can only dimly see in the distance, with a yearning unrequited. But it is there nevertheless. I find it often in His creation. At this time of year there is an explosion of greenery in the woodlands near where I live. A place of blessing because I find God there. Because He made it and His fingerprints are all over it.
Let’s worship our amazing Creator God together today.