The message of this psalm is that to brood on sorrow is to be broken and disheartened, while to see God is to sing on the darkest day. Once we come to know that our years are of His right hand, there is light everywhere (G. Campbell Morgan)
Observe: Psalm 77 can be split into two parts – the first part where the psalmist cries out to God in distress, experiencing profound difficulties and feels that his cries to God are largely ignored. It is only in remembering the past that he can see anything even resembling joy. (verses 1 - 12) The second part shows the greatness of God and His faithfulness in His sanctuary and at the Red Sea. (verses 13 – 20)
Interpretation and Application: Do you ever doubt God? If you do, do you ever think that you’re not a Christian because of that doubt? If you’ve been reading the psalms regularly, you know that this is not true. We human beings tend to bring God down to our level – if we forget, God must forget, if we break our promises, God must do so as well. Thankfully, that is not at all true! God is not like us. The psalmist recalls the mighty deeds of God, particularly at the Red Sea. He recalls the miracles that the children of Israel were privileged to see and tells of God’s power and might. It was God’s path that led them through the sea, not theirs. Even though they couldn’t see His footprints, He was there and led them. He was faithful then and He is faithful now. I’m sure most of you have read the poem “Footprints”. If not, I’ll do a short re-cap for you. A man dreamt that he was walking along the sand with God. He was able to see two sets of footprints – his and God’s. However, at the lowest times in his life, he only saw one set of footprints. When he asked the Lord why He would abandon him at the worst moments in his life, the Lord answered him saying: “My child, that was when I carried you – those are my footprints that you see!” Let us remember that God is faithful to the end – He leads us along the path He has for us and will never abandon us, even when we feel He has vanished. He is carrying us in His arms at our most vulnerable times and shows us His mercy, unfailing love, and His faithful promises. Great is His faithfulness!
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me not to bring you down to my level, but to recognize and praise you for your constant faithfulness and love. Even when I feel abandoned, help me to put my trust in you especially as I have seen your power, might, mercy, and miracles in the past. Help me to consider all your works and meditate on your mighty deeds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Song: Great is Thy Faithfulness
Psalm 75 is a song set to the tune of the Davidic Psalms 57-59 and was written by Asaph, a lead singer and musician in the time of David and Solomon. It begins with thanksgiving to their God who is near; thanksgiving based on His wonderous deeds and accomplishments. It shifts perspective from that of the people to that of God in which He declares His imminent righteous judgement. By His power He maintains the very pillars of the earth; by His righteousness He rebukes the prideful. God reminds the inhabitants of His good creation that it is He who lifts up and casts down, no other person can do this. No other person can deliver or judge rightly. The image of a cup foaming with bitter wine as a punishment brought on by evildoers is a contrast to its more traditional use depicting frivolity and joy. It ends with a promise and reminder that the wicked will be brought low and the righteous shall be exalted.
When I was growing up it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of big bad news going around all the time like there is today. In truth, I was simply inattentive then and overly connected now. It’s safe to say that at no other point in my life have I had more urgent news alerts on my phone that I cannot bear to look at than I do right now. Evil men and wicked women hurt and abuse and coerce and slaughter one another and it seems like there is no consequence for their action. It is infuriating to see so much pain and distress all over the earth, and as soon as I think it can’t get any worse, it invariably does.
It’s at times like these when I need to unplug the most. It’s at times like these I need to remember that things aren’t necessarily worse now than they were ten, twenty, or even two thousand years ago: it’s just the specifics that have changed. This world has been fallen for so long and I find myself groaning with the rest of creation for Jesus to show up and put an end to it all! That’s when I find comfort in the Psalms. The earth we live on has never been short of the murderous or greedy; the arrogant and deceitful. As it was, it is, and will continue to be. But that is where despair must be checked – for as longstanding as evil seems to be, the promises of God Almighty are infinitely stronger, infinitely greater, and last forever!
God has promised long, long ago to bring down the haughty, to lift up the crushed and broken, and have compassion on the poor and widowed. He has promised to wipe away every tear and do away with the proud once and for all! So many of the books of the New Testament are written to struggling churches, encouraging them to press on, look heavenward, and hold fast to the promises of Christ. We are in no less dire straits right here and right now. In fact, given the overwhelming flood of news and information, we are in more danger of being overwhelmed by the wickedness of the world today more than yesterday!
In what ways do you react to the state of the world as it is today? Do you shut down like me? Are you bitter like I can be? Do you find it all a bit hopeless like I do? I think any honest and sincere look at something as small as our own community to something as large as our continent will yield distress within us, especially when held up to the ideal put forward in Genesis. I would caution you, as I continually have to do myself, to be spurred on to pray instead of shutting down. Pray big prayers and pray them constantly. Prayer makes the difference, for in prayer we intercede for others and commit all things to God. Prayer is the natural antidote to despair, and prayer reminds us of the wealth of God’s promises from Genesis to Revelation.
Lord God, thank you for all the ways in which you work good and hope into such desperate times as these. We pray for soft hearts that will not become calloused or insensitive to the world around us. We pray for our hearts to break over what breaks yours. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear those who need your help today and help us to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in even the smallest way today. Help us to be a beacon on a hill, salt of the earth, and the light of the world, that all may see our good deeds and give glory to you, our Father in Heaven. Amen!
Song: Holy, Holy, Holy (Shane & Shane)
"Going to Zion to worship our mighty God."
INTRODUCTION: This Psalm is a hymn celebrating Zion as the place God has chosen to dwell. It also serves as a celebration of a time when God delivered Zion from invaders. When the congregation sang this, they marvelled at the privilege of going to Zion and worshiping there, and thanked God.
Do we marvel at the privilege of worshiping Jesus in the midst of our congregation?
When has God rescued you from danger?
Do you remember what he has done for you?
Are you thankful?
OBSERVATION: V.1-2, The maker of heaven and earth has chosen his people, Israel, and Zion as his dwelling place on earth. In a great battle God defended Zion from invaders. We read here of God breaking flashing arrows, shields, and weapons of war. [Oh, that he would do it again!]
V.4 reads of God's glorious majesty as being more glorious than mountains. Next, we see the defeated army, weapons being destroyed at the rebuke of God, v. 6 resulting in worship by his people. "It is you alone who are to be feared," v.7. We stand with Israel in awestruck wonder at the power of our God unleashed to deliver his people, v.10. In v.11-12 we are bidden to make commitments to the Lord - and keep them - because God takes our vows seriously.
INTERPRETATION: Like Israel, we are to marvel at the works God has done for us. Most of us have some story of when we were rescued from some calamity or other, BUT, how cool is it, that our story joins with God's great story of salvation - beginning with the people of Israel and coming to climax with Jesus, his Son, on the cross? The enemy defeated for us is sin and death, "Death has lost it's grip on me!" So, if you're tempted (like me) to grumble about getting up early on Sunday to go to church, try instead to marvel at the privilege of worshiping our God together, hearing the Bible preached and taught, feeding our souls with the goodness of God. Let's be the salt in the world, light in our situation. "People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds." Amen.
PRAYER: Lord, keep us faithful. Refresh our memories of times when you have brought us through the storms of life. Give us strength to endure to the end, that we may praise you along with all the company of heaven, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (Rev.4.8)
HYMN: "Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!"
“We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.”
Psalm 74: 9
In some ways this Psalm has echoes of Psalm 44; there is an anguished call upon God to help His people as they face calamities, evil, persecution and trouble. In the face of such difficulty God seems to have abandoned them; at the very least to be remaining silent and inactive.
What is noticeable, though, is that despite this situation there is no mention of national or personal sin and no allusion to the waywardness of the people that have been causal factors of such catastrophe. Mourning, grieving and beseeching are clearly present but no complaint, murmuring or doubt. Instead the Psalm calls upon God to defend His name and protect His cause. He is honoured, even praised for who He is, and the prayers are specific and clear. God has made His sanctuary with His people, both of which are under attack; places of worship destroyed. God has not acted, prophets are silent and there seems to be no end in sight. In the face of such oppression God is called upon to help His people, the oppressed, and the poor; to keep His covenant and to honour His own name. A cry, a petition, of faith in the face of adversity, focused on a Sovereign God who owns salvation and is greater than the enemies and powers that are being faced.
This Psalm has a lot to teach us and a deal of encouragement. We will have all faced seriously difficult times, when we call upon God, but He seems silent and inactive. The situations may have in part or directly been caused by ourselves; they may just simply be awful circumstances. Whatever is the case, we are seeking God, but we are not seeing or hearing anything from Him; we see no light at the end of the tunnel (vs. 9). A truly horrible situation. In such conditions this Psalm calls us to act in the following ways, we are to:
The Church, and God’s individual children, have always faced suffering and trials. This Psalm provides an encouragement of response focused on God’s truth. God’s cause and ultimate blessing will always triumph (Ephesians 1: 9-10). He loves us, and if He has called us, He will always bring good out of the situations we face (Romans 8: 28)
The Question of Application
Is our God greater than that which we face?
Father God, help us to humble ourselves under your mighty hand so that you may lift us up in due time. May we cast all our anxiety on you because you care for us. Help us to be alert and of sober mind as our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. May we resist him, standing firm in our faith, as we know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Then O Lord, as the God of all grace, who called us to your eternal glory in Christ, after we have suffered a little while, will you restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast. To you be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(Based on 1 Peter 5: 6-11)
Who shall I fear (God of Angel Armies) by Chris Tomlin
TEXT: PSALM 73
Verses 1-2: The psalmist confesses that he has ran into an obstacle in life that has unbalanced him.
Verses 3-12: The psalmist is brutally honest of his resentment towards evil people who prosper in this life.
Verses 13-14: We see that the psalmist’s life is full of struggles and pain. The psalmist finds himself questioning whether an innocent life is worthwhile.
Verses 15-20: The psalmist’s experience of the presence of God refocused his perspective and he quickly realized that present realities are not ultimate realities.
Verses 21-22: The psalmist realizes that his previous behaviour was out of ignorance.
Verses 23-26: These verses describe the ultimate destiny of the wicked and the psalmist speaks of his future as living in relationship to God.
INTERPRET: The composer of Psalm 73 struggled with the age-old problem of the suffering of the innocent and the prosperity of the wicked, and wrote this psalm after coming to a place of resolution in his heart. This psalm is considered a wisdom psalm and there are clear connections between this psalm and the life of Job. Job too questioned God’s goodness, since he, an innocent person, was suffering. But when God appeared to him, he submitted to God without explanation of why he suffered.
Psalm 73 expresses what many, if not most, people have felt through the ages as they wondered why some wicked people seem to thrive, while God’s devoted people often struggle in life. The question of why bad things happen to good people has occupied the attention of many through the ages. The psalmist bears testimony that the answer to this question does not come by observation or reason alone, but through an experience of God which compels us to look beyond the present into the future. This psalm clearly illustrates that present realities are not ultimate realities.
APPLICATION: God’s ultimate answer to our sufferings comes in the form of Jesus Christ, his beloved Son, who entered into our human sufferings to the point of dying on the cross. Jesus was also raised from the dead and now sits on the right hand of the Father. Those who are now united in Christ can rejoice, that by his resurrection they are ultimately victorious.
If there is a debate about what was in the mind of the author as he spoke of the final destiny of the wicked and righteous alike, no doubt remains today in the light of the death and resurrection of Christ. Because of the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, we can be sure that present realities are not ultimate realities. When we encounter the overwhelming presence of God like the psalmist did, we too become like Job. We no longer get overcome by our struggles, but rather we become overwhelmed by the grace of God and thereby submit to him in all we do.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus; I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end you will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see you with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me for that day in which all of my struggles with be gone. May my hope for that ultimate reality overcome all of the sufferings of my present reality. AMEN.
SONG: My Redeemer Lives
June 17th – Les Kovacs Psalm 72
Observe: Psalm 72 is a joyous prayer written for the coronation of King Solomon, but which also foreshadows the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The opening verses 1-4 of the psalm start by asking God to endow the king with His justice and righteousness so he can rule the people with and justice, and that God’s blessings and protection fall on the people because of the king’s righteous reign.
The next verses 5-11, ask God’s blessing on his reign with longevity, righteousness, and prosperity. May the kings of the nations near and far be subject to him and bring hm great tribute.
The following verses 12-15, ascribe to the king great and heroic attributes of delivering the weak and needy from oppression and violence.
This is followed in verses 16-18 by a petition for successful production of the land so that the crops will flourish and that all nations will be blessed because of him.
And finally, verses 18-20 end with praises being lifted to the God of Israel.
Interpret: Although the psalm was written to commemorate the installation of Solomon, the son of David, as king of Israel, any Christian cannot help but see the parallels to the even greater son of David, Jesus Christ. Like Solomon, Jesus too was descended from the Royal House of David.
Although this particular psalm is not considered one of the Messianic Psalms because it was written for Solomon, if you replaced all the pronouns of “he”, “him”, or “his”, or each reference to the “king” with the name of Jesus, every verse would be an apt descriptor of our Lord, but to an even greater degree than the merely mortal Solomon.
It is Jesus who will rule over His people with the ultimate sense of justice and righteousness. It is Jesus who will reign for eternity and to whom all people, nations and rulers will bow down before. It is Jesus who will deliver His people from injustice and oppression of every kind, when He brings the new heaven and the new earth where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21-4). And it is Jesus, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to whom we will forever sing our praises
This is a psalm fit for a King.
Application: David was a great king of Israel. Solomon was the wisest king of Israel. Over the millennia, there have been many good and wise rulers, not only for Israel, but for the various nations of the earth. But each of these rulers, whether kings, or presidents, or prime ministers are merely human beings. As such, they have their own set of faults, biases, or agendas. No matter how “good” they may be at their job, they like the rest of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
Despite having a heart after God’s own heart, David committed a myriad of sins. Despite being given great wisdom, Solomon eventually lost his way. Every human leader in history has fallen victim to the desires of their own hearts. But it’s not just our leaders who fall short of our expectations by giving into their sinful impulses. We fall prey to sin every day.
Yet because of our good and perfect King Jesus, we have something that we can celebrate every day. As His disciples, we know what awaits us when He returns. We know that He will rule with righteousness, mercy, and love. But we also know that we don’t have to wait for His return for Him to be our saviour. Because of His sacrifice for us, we have the Holy Spirit within us, to be our guide, our comfort, our shield in times of trouble. He can do for us what our earthly leaders can never do. Jesus is the only one in whom we can place our trust fully and completely, and who is most deserving of our praise and adoration.
What better imagery could the psalmist have employed to convey the idea of the most beneficial and blessed effects that follow the descent of Jesus, the Son of God, upon the earth, and that of His Holy Spirit, during Pentecost?
Prayer: Father God, we praise you and bless the name of Jesus above all things. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He alone is the hope of all the nations of the earth. Open our lips, Lord, and our mouths will declare your praise. This we pray in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
Song: You're Beautiful – Phil Wickham
Observe The psalmist’s hope is in the Lord, right into his old age. We see three aspects of this hope:
Confidence: In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame (1), that is, be disappointed or disillusioned. God has always been his rock, his fortress to trust absolutely.
Contrition: He asks God not to forget him in his age and weakness: Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails (9).He still has enemies, so he prays, O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! (12). Vulnerable, he trusts God for strength.
Commitment: A lifetime of trials have not embittered him but have increased his faith and trust in God; we see this in the buoyancy of But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.(14) His declaration of God’s faithfulness reveals a lifetime of wonder: O God, you have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare your wondrous works (17). He follows with a plea: Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me.(18) And, He won’t!
He ends with praise for God’s faithfulness (22-24).
Interpret Martin Luther said, “It would be a good thing if young people were wise and old people were strong, but God has arranged things better.” Looking at prominent figures in the Hebrew Scriptures, few are young. God revealed His purposes to them, and they obeyed Him well beyond their three score and ten years, flawed but faithful to the end.
This psalm speaks of a lifetime of faith in God, keeping steadfast trust and endurance well into his final years.
Apply Western culture has skewed the social spectrum so that elders are too often ignored, neglected, even mocked – to our shame.
We’re losing their stories, building blocks for a community’s history. And if we don’t know our history, the adage goes, we may have to repeat it -- not a great prospect.
We combat our culture’s ageism by asking God for a holy respect for our elders, for eyes to see as God sees. Let’s ask for their stories as part of God’s story, listening patiently to learn and grow together in His love.
The Real Lives Lived brochures of a few years ago introduced our elders who attended the 8:30 service. They may now be in hospital, in care homes, homebound -- or with the Lord. As we can, we pray, visit, phone, write, invite… any means to say that their church family esteems them as God does. Psalm 71 reminds us elders have much to offer. Let’s discover who they are, remembering they are gifts!
Ask What are the faith stories of the elders in my community, my church family, my own family? What questions can I ask to encourage their telling? As I age, Lord, will You increase my strength, hope and faith in You?
Pray Lord, help me to renounce society’s fear and mockery of aging. You are my faithful, loving Lord, my life beginning to end. Anchor me to You as I become more vulnerable. Remind me often to give You thanks and praise because Jesus bought my entire life at great price.
Sing Psalm 71 Greg Mailloux - I Will Sing of Your Salvation
The Psalms Project - I Have Hoped, O Lord, in You
“O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us.”
Observe: This Psalm is the same as the last stanza sentences of Psalm 40. The first and last sentences are urgent pleas for help. David pleads with God to make haste, come quickly, do not delay. His enemies who are out to get his life, to ruin him. He asks God to turn on them the things they want to do to David.
Interpret: David was betrayed by various enemies. He wants revenge, and so asks God to bring shame, confusion, and disgrace. He also asks that those who seek God may rejoice and praise God. And he ends with another plea for speedy help from the Lord. These are the normal reactions of someone being hounded by enemies, who wants help right now, and who sees the faithful as his allies.
As with all the Psalms that seek retribution on enemies, the key is that the desire for vengeance is acted upon by taking it to God. In other words, take your deepest feelings and desires, and rather than “acting out,” bring them to the Lord. This is a healthy (and non-destructive) way to deal with anger, rejection, and so forth. By the same token, our feelings of gratitude and rejoicing find their true home when directed to God.
Application: Everyone has to deal with anger, feelings of revenge, or rejection. Acting them out is either self-destructive or destroys others. Taking those emotions and desires to God, especially if we are reacting to a real situation in our lives, is an act of faith and obedience. Faith that God can deal with whatever and whoever is out to get us (“those who say to me ‘Aha! Aha!’). Obedience to Jesus’ command not to judge, and thus condemn others, overrides our desires.
Romans 12:17-21 is the clearest statement in the New Testament of how to turn the desire for retribution into love in action. This is what God did in Christ on the cross. Jesus has once and for all taken our human judgments on himself.
We look to God to be our Judge and Defender. Our prayers can include our need to be defended, as well as funneling our desire for vengeance towards God the final judge.
The Book of Common Prayer uses the double petition of verse 1, “O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us,” in both Morning and Evening Prayers.
Prayer: O God, who at the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Collect for Peace, Morning Prayer, BCP
Song: “When peace like a river,” (It is well with my soul)
“Perhaps in no psalm in the whole psalter is the sense of sorrow profounder or more intense than in this. The soul of the singer pours itself out in unrestrained abandonment to the overwhelming and terrible grief which consumes it.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
Observe: Psalm 69 is an imprecatory psalm (utters a curse or invokes evil against someone). The first 28 verses see David pleading to God for help and deliverance from his adversaries. In verses 1-4 he is drowning in a flood of trouble and living with the constant disapproval of man in verses 5-12. Verses 13-28 talk of his appeal to God, asking for deliverance, compassion, and defeat of his enemies. Now we see a glorious turn-around in verses 29-36 where David praises God and gives glory to Him.
Interpretation and application: I’d like to “park” on the last few verses of this psalm but take a slight detour to verse 21. Here David tells of his enemies putting gall in his food and giving him vinegar to drink. This line is referred to in the New Testament when Christ was on the cross and they gave Him vinegar to drink (Matthew 27:34). John 19:28-29 is even more clear with John adding that this was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
I love verses 30 and 31. This tells us that praising God pleases Him more than any sacrifice. Sure, that’s easy to do when everything is hunky-dory but not so much when we feel the world crashing down around us. We might even ask: “Why God is allowing that to happen to me?” I’ve asked this question myself many times in the last couple of years, often getting frustrated and discouraged and feeling that it’s not fair of God to “do” this to me. However, verses 32 -33 give an answer to that question…God uses our trials and difficulties and our Godly response to them to encourage others. Even if our faith is small, He is there to help us in the bad times. Our purpose in life is to enjoy God and serve Him forever as well as to encourage other Christians and be a testimony to those who don’t know Him. I hope and pray that my response and attitude to my difficulties will be one of praise and thanksgiving, even if I don’t feel it. If I am to shine my light for the world to see, I need to thank God for my trials. Very hard to do, but a real sense of peace and contentment comes when I do so. Knowing that I am His child and will have an inheritance in heaven is well worth it!
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the trials you send me because I know it builds my faith and through that can encourage someone else. Help me to be grateful and to enjoy You so that others might see and be drawn to You, despite my circumstances. Amen.
Song: With a Thankful Heart (Don Moen)
“Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice.”
Psalm 68: 32-33
Whilst a long Psalm with challenges and difficult topics this Scripture essentially describes God's victory march. It looks back at the establishment of His Kingdom in the past, at its current position and to the future where all nations will submit to Him. It is a powerful Psalm of praise recognizing God’s definitive sovereignty. The Psalm describes the history of God’s chosen people with His wonderful care and provision. This provision has been majestic and miraculous at times, the definitive miracle and privilege though is God’s presence with His people. Within this praise there is a clear call and responsibility on His people to pray, obey, follow and honour God; to attribute to God the praise and worship that is His due.
If the people live in this way and honour God they bear witness to His glory and truth. Other nations and peoples will then be enabled to ‘see’ God and submit to Him also in genuine worship.
This Psalm will have been sung on pilgrimages to Jerusalem and when conveying the ark.
The Psalm was written before the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ. God’s victory march has continued in Christ with death and sin defeated. His Kingdom is now present in this world, in His Church, through Jesus Christ in the reality of His Holy Spirit. The call of the Psalm for His people, the Body of Christ, to pray, honour, obey and give witness to His truth and glory echoes loudly and in reality to us today. We are to bear witness to His victory in Jesus and call all to be ready for His glorious return in final and complete victory when all will bow before Him. God's Victory March is absolutely guaranteed!
The Questions of Application
Are we walking with God in victory through His grace and our faith in Jesus Christ? Do others know that He lives because of our lives and words? Are we ready for His majestic return?
Blessed are you, Lord God of truth and justice; you open our hearts and our mouths to pray and to praise. Guide now our feet in your holy way until your return. May our lives and words bear witness to the truth of your victory, love and glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Even so Come by Chris Tomlin
In 2024, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.