"Your Wonderful Works" by Lynne McCarthy
Observe This Psalm cries out, Praise the Lord, O my soul, explodes in recognition of God’s splendour (O Lord my God, You are very great (1)) and becomes a meditation on His marvellous creation, extolling God for His natural world. Images of God and His works are summed up in each stanza:
He is clothed with splendour and majesty, wearing a magnificent garment of light as He exercises His imagination and creativity in the firmament. He is master of the angels (his messengers), ref. Heb. 1:7;
He sets boundaries for land and sea, separating dry land from the waters (one of many references to water throughout the Bible), making shorelines so there would be no more earth-covering floods (Gen 7-9);
He provides water for his land creatures and enhances the beauty of the earth;
He provides food and shelter for his land creatures, giving his humans more than mere necessity, but also enjoyment – wine, oil, bread. And the homes for His animals are just where they need to be.
He governs day and night, the rhythms that allow for work, play and rest;
He delights in his sea creatures, (the fifth day of creation), numberless in their variety and size; a whale playing is a sight to behold, and God loves it!
All his creatures look to Him for their needs – their food, their breath (to give and to take), and His Spirit to renew and regenerate. He is a generous God.
The last stanza takes up the cry of joy in the first stanza; it’s full of His glory, His delight in what He has made. What else can the psalmist do but rejoice in Him, sing praise, lift up his heart in thanks. The only downer in the Psalm is verse 10a, the hardness of sinners opposing God’s good work, but in His time, they will be gone. The poet again looks up and cries out, Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!
Interpret The psalm recalls the Creation story in Genesis 1:1-2:13, though not in the order of the first book of the Torah. Even more so, we see God as the One who nurtures, cares for, delights in what He made – “He saw that it was good.”
The gorgeous metaphors of clothing made of light, setting the foundations of the earth, satisfying the earth with His fruit, wine to gladden and oil to make radiant, filling our open hands with His goodness and abundance, His mere touch making mountains smoke – aren’t these images of our great God potent, lifegiving -- enjoyable? This is a very happy Psalm!
Apply The sheer exuberance of this Psalm reminds us of what Creation was about – the praise and worship and glory of God. It might also nudge us to think about how we regard God’s creation, as we ever so slowly come to realize we have to take care of this small space we are placed in. We too are Imago Dei – the image of God. This we must remember as we look up and around at His splendour, so often obscured by bad news based in human pride, greed, aggression. We determine to reflect His image and light to others who as yet don’t know Him. They’ll notice.
Ask Would You clothe me and fill me with Your light, to identify with You, my Creator-Lord, to care for what You have made, to care for others? Would you help me daily to cry out, Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Pray Yours is the greatness, and the power, and the glory – forever and ever! Yes, yes, yes!
Sing Psalm 104
Sandra McCracken - All Your Works are Good
MercyMe - Psalm 104
Psalms Project Africa - Psalm 104
Mike Janzen - Alleluia
TEXT: Psalm 103
Verses 1-5: While other psalms open with a call for the assembled faithful to praise God, the psalmist here urges himself to worship. He desires that his praise not be robotic, but to emanate from the deepest places of his heart (soul/inmost being). By exhorting himself publicly to praise, he encourages others to join in.
Verses 6-12: The psalmist makes it clear that benefits from God are not just for him, but for all of God’s faithful people – characterized in this psalm as the oppressed.
Verses13-18: We read that God is like a Father to his people (those who fear him). His love and righteousness last forever. In contrast to the temporal nature of humanity, God’s love, and righteousness last forever.
Verses 20-22: The psalm opened with the psalmist exhorting himself to worship. At the end, he calls on others to join him. He proclaims God’s universal kingship and therefore everyone and everything should praise Him. The psalmist closes by repeating the first call as a final call to worship (Praise the Lord, my soul).
INTERPRET: The psalm opens and closes with a call to praise in a way that is well known in the hymnic literature of the Psalms, although this psalm is the first to use it. The psalm begins as the prayer of an individual, but eventually the individual speaks on behalf of the community. The psalmist urges himself and eventually the whole cosmos to praise and thank God for healing him spiritually (by forgiveness) and physically (from a deadly disease).
The implication here is that the disease was a consequence of his sin. Of course, not all suffering is explained by personal sin (see the book of Job), nor does sin always lead to immediate suffering. It is significant, for instance, that Jesus forgave the paralysed man’s sins before healing him of his affliction (Luke 5: 17-26). Indeed, The Pharisees and teachers of the religious law may be alluding to Psalm 103:3 when they say that only God can forgive sins (Luke 5:21). This gospel story clearly demonstrates Jesus himself is God.
APPLICATION: From the call to prayer all the way through the praise of this psalm, there is so much for us to examine within ourselves. The psalmist seeks to praise his holy name with his inmost being. Do we find ourselves being too robotic at times with our praise and worship?
There are so many benefits with being in relation with God; do we seek all His benefits both in this life and the next?
The psalmist makes it clear that God’s benefits are not just for us, but for everyone who seeks God. How often do we praise God for what He is doing in the lives of our brothers and sisters?
The psalmist makes a clear distinction between the love of this world and the everlasting love and faithfulness of God. Are we able to make this clear distinction?
Finally, the psalmist seeks for his praise of God to include and bring forth others to praise God. Are we being intentional about being good witnesses by living praise-filled lives?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, your name is worthy of all praise and glory, for you forgive all my sins and heal all my diseases. You have redeemed me from death and crowned me with loving-kindness and tender-mercies. You fill my life with good things and my youth is renewed each day, all praise to Your Holy name. AMEN.
SONG: 10,000 Reasons
Strength through Lament by Pastor Dave
“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: ‘The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoner
and release those condemned to death.’”
Psalm 102: 18-20
The author of this Psalm is an individual who dearly loves his Nation, who acutely and in great distress, feels the pain of her fallen condition. He clearly has his own struggles which, combined with his concern for his people, results in groaning, illness and failure to eat and sleep; he almost withers away (3-11). He vividly describes his condition and that of the Nation in these verses. God’s wrath is upon His people because of their waywardness (10). The answer is to call upon the Lord in utter honesty (1-2).
As he walks amongst the rubble of Jerusalem (14) he focuses upon God and His character, thus enabling a resounding statement of faith, “For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in His glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea.” As well as lamenting the present the Psalmist looks to a future in God that is certain (18-28). The Nation will be rebuilt, prisoners freed and God’s people will live in the presence of their Saviour. He is confident of this outcome because of His focus upon and recognition of who God is. God hears and answers prayers (1-2, 17), He is compassionate (13), He saves and frees (20), He is unchanging (27), and He is utterly Sovereign (12). With this focus of faith, complaint has changed to praise, the Psalmist found strength through honest and heartfelt lament.
I am utterly certain that we all have troubles, although we may not all have severe trials that lead to sleeplessness, failure to eat and a blighted heart. The truth though is that, to some degree, we all know pain and suffering. I am also sure that we care and feel for our own Nations and the countries in which we live. How do we respond?
Honest lament conveyed to God can transform situations; prayers are answered. Emotions expressed in authentic lament and complaint can act as God given safety valves in our lives. Prayers in truth from our hearts are those which God truly hears and honours.
Oftentimes we fail to pray because we think we are not good enough, our prayers not professional or ‘happy’ enough. This Psalm beautifully blows those illusions out of the water. God WANTS to hear our agonies, our laments. He loves and cares for; He desires to help.
The Psalm also calls us to turn our focus to God once the lament has been expressed. Looking at God transforms our state of heart and mind from pain, fear and worry to faith, hope and praise. God is unchanging and, as His children, we have an absolutely certain future in His presence (27-28)
The Questions of Application
What woes for the world and for yourself do you need to honestly express before God? What promises of God will you focus upon to ignite faith and joy?
God of unchanging mercy, look with compassion upon all who-suffer: the sick and the friendless, the homeless and the captive, the weary and the depressed. Be present to them, and to us, in the power of your healing love; give all health, comfort, and hope; and bring all to share in the life of your risen Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
God of this City by Chris Tomlin
For the Healing of the Nations by Ruth and Joy Everingham
August 24th – Les Kovacs Psalm 101
Observe: Psalm 101 is a declaration by King David that he will model his earthly kingdom after that of the Lord’s kingdom. It is his commitment to live with honesty, moral integrity, and godliness, despite the evil influences of the world
In verse 1, David promises to sing the praises of God’s love and justice. In verses 2-3, he commits himself to live in moral integrity, first within his own heart and life, and then in his relationships with others. He promises to remain blameless in his heart and his home and will not associate with faithless people doing vile things. Then in verses 4-8, he lists the things that he will not do in order to fulfill his commitment to the Lord.
Interpret: David is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and as king of the Israelites, he is also the ultimate civil magistrate in the nation. Therefore, he must be committed to God’s system of justice and to God’s definitions of right and wrong. He knows that he must be swayed by the sinful standards and practises of the world.
All Godly leadership is rooted in a personal relationship with God. Many leaders get into trouble when their leadership demands outstrip their spiritual roots. David’s relationship with God is the foundation for everything he must do as king. He recognizes that it is not uncommon for a man to act the “nice guy” in the public eye while living as a self-centered, immoral wretch with his family in his own home. The true character of a leader like this will eventually betray itself to all. No king or other leader can remain effective if their public persona is divorced from their personal life, and so David makes this public declaration to abide by God’s standards for behaviour.
Application: This psalm presents a challenge to each of us who claim to be Christians, whether we are in positions of leadership or not. Look at the things this psalm encourages us to do: “I will be careful to lead a blameless life,” “I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.” This is an impossible model of behaviour for any human being to attain. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)
Our modern world knows almost nothing about living a Godly life, but that doesn’t mean it was any easier for David to set these kinds of goals for his life than it would be for us today. Far from it. The sins besetting the world during our lifetimes are the same ones that beset David in his time, they merely manifest themselves in slightly different ways. And Satan’s devices are just as effective today as they were in David’s day. The traps and temptations of pride, lust, greed, and all the other vices known to humans have been the same throughout the ages.
In trying to live righteously, there may be times when you feel like you are walking through a minefield of controversial issues, while your heart is being pulled in a dozen different directions. The more of life you experience, the more you realize just how dangerous a world we live in with it’s siren call of subtle, and sometimes overt, seductions. Sometimes it is hard to know what is true and who to trust. Hypocrisy proliferates. Deceit is everywhere, including in the human heart. (Jeremiah 17:9) And if your own heart is untrustworthy, how can you possibly discern the hearts, intentions, and actions of others?
Psalm 101 contains some very hard goals for human beings to attain, but these commitments to living a Godly life is really what being a Christian is all about. However, as we struggle to achieve these lofty standards, we have a very real and constant hope provided by our faithful and merciful God. We have Jesus, the word made flesh, as our example, and we have the living word of God to instruct us through Scripture.
Every word of this psalm has relevant application to our lives because all of us have fallen short of these pledges that David makes. If we look at verse 2, we see that David recognizes how high these standards are and he offers a quiet plea to God that He come to David’s aid to help him keep his promises. And like David, we too, cannot keep these commitments without God’s help. The plain fact is that we cannot make a single commitment to do good without our constant reliance on God for His grace to enable and empower us, so prayers for His divine help, made out of our faith in Him, must always accompany our pledges to Him.
The point of this psalm is show us that although we live in a sinful world filled with evil and deceit, by faithfulness to God, through our belief in Jesus Christ, we can commit to opposing the temptations we face daily and walking in step with His will.
Prayer: Father God, we pray that you would help us to make and keep our promise to live a righteous life with a blameless heart, and to avoid the temptations lurking all around us just as David called upon you, in your great mercy to deliver him. In the Holy name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: Jesus – Chris Tomlin
Blog on Psalm 100 by Rev. Susan Salo
OBSERVATIONS: The superscription of this Psalm is, "A psalm. For giving grateful praise." Therefore, the reader already knows that an attitude of gratitude is pointing the way to God.
There are 7 commands for the reader: shout (v1.), worship and come (v2), know (v3), enter, give thanks and praise (v4) - all centered around worship of Yahweh.
The whole earth is welcomed into this worship (v.1.) This is followed by the reason for all this worship - because "the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (v.5)."
Verse 3 recalls the royal shepherd image.
The congregation is summoned to worship and specifically to come before God and enter his temple for the purpose of offering thanksgiving and praise. We can imagine joining the congregation and entering the temple procession.
NOTES: "Shout for joy to the Lord," the Apostle Paul in Col.2.15 says that Jesus triumphed over the 'powers and [spiritual] authorities' and made a public spectacle of them by the cross. Jesus, by his work on the cross, won the ultimate victory over evil and death. God is more than worthy of all our thanks and praise. Every word of worship rightly, belongs to God.
Interestingly, this Psalm is used in Jewish worship in the daily morning service, as well as being used as a canticle in morning prayer in our own Book of Alternative Services (p. 49).
APPLICATION: Thanking and praising God is easy if you're in a good mood, or when things are going well. When you are dealing with anxiety and depression it takes real effort. When things are going horribly wrong it is a real sacrifice to thank and praise God. Yet, it is that very sacrifice that brings peace and opens the gates to his presence. A sweet aroma, a costly sacrifice "for the Lord is good and his love endures forever". Amen.
SONG: Hezekiah Walker - "Every Praise"
Holy is He by Lynne McCarthy
Observe This first section (1-5) describes the high holiness of God. The Lord reigns, enthroned upon the cherubim (1), and the proper response to His display of majesty is for His creation to tremble … to quake. The refrain “Holy is He!” (3b,5b) recalls Moses’ covering his face when in God’s presence; His radiant holiness too overwhelming for mere humans to gaze on (Ex.34:29-35).
But His people recognize His justice and His righteousness among them. In Him, absolute might and absolute right combine, causing His people to exalt Him, worship Him at His footstool (5) – His earth, His creation.
Verses 6-9 examine the privilege of being God’s people. His chosen leaders, Moses, Aaron and Samuel, used their priestly function: They called to the Lord and He answered them (6c), because they kept His law. The people witness God’s love and justice: You were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. (8b).
Hebrew poetry uses repetition for emphasis (here, God’s quality of holiness), we end with the people exalting God, worshipping at His holy mountain – because the Lord our God is holy (9).
Interpret This is one of a series of Psalms exalting God’s kingship over His creation. “Holy” means “set apart”, and His people’s separateness derives only from His choosing them to be holy. This has preserved His people, despite their wrongdoing. His forgiveness lodges in His holiness (Ex.34:7). The three men named were God’s gifts to His people, but they relied on His holy forgiveness, not their moral excellence which wobbled at times. Worship befits Him, and His people exalt Him for this very quality.
Apply “Holy”. We use this word so casually as an expletive– Holy smoke! Holy xxxx! Is this what holiness has been reduced to in this so casual, careless, increasingly crude culture? Haven’t we used this word hundreds of times without thinking – this word that properly belongs to things of God and is God -- with such carelessness?
How many times in the Psalms do we find the word “holy”? Here’s a challenge: search all 150 of these songs, where and how the word is used, about whom. And then, having done this, we examine ourselves in the light of God’s searching grace, wondering if we are willing to be set apart, different, courageous, godly – if we are willing to be ‘holy’. And then, live this quality, asking for the Spirit’s help.
Ask Will You transform my heart and will and life to shine with Your radiant love until sharing in Your holiness becomes my greatest good?
Pray Lord God, You are holy and I am not, save by Your immense and generous grace. Jesus’ awesome sacrifice on the Cross freed me from what bound me for so long, by His boundless forgiveness. And so, I can only say Thank you, again and again, for Who you are and for what You are doing to make me like You -- holy.
Sing Ps 99 Sons of Korah
Holy is He - Jason Silver
The Lord is King - Guildford Cathedral Choir
There are striking parallels between the first part of Psalm 98 and Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which may mean that the mother of Jesus had the psalm in mind as she composed her hymn and that she rightly saw that the promises of the psalm were to be fulfilled in the spiritual victories to be achieved by Jesus Christ. (Boice)
Observe: Psalm 98 begins with praising (singing) to God a new song (vs. 1-3), followed by bringing praise with music (verses 4-6) and finally majestic praise from all creation (verses 7-9).
Interpretation and Application: We are to sing to God with a new song. What does that mean? There are many references in scripture where the author talks of singing a new song. (Psalm 33:3, Isaiah 42:10 and Rev. 5:9 are some examples.) A new song means something fresh, different and dynamic. When Miriam sang, she didn’t use an Egyptian song. When Deborah sang, she didn’t use Miriam’s song. Each had their own song of worship to the Lord. When we worship and sing in church are we using that particular song as part of our own worship from deep within, or are we just singing words? “There must be new songs on new occasions of triumph”. (Spurgeon) Each time we sing, is it new and fresh and do we consider that particular song, even when familiar, as an occasion of triumph?
Verses 4-6 speak of singing praise to the Lord with instruments – the harp, trumpets, the horn as well as voices of the people. It is clear that instruments should accompany the singing mentioned, but also the instruments themselves sing to the Lord a song of praise. I have never thought of it in terms like this before, but it totally makes sense. When I play the piano, the instrument itself can express so many feelings depending on how sensitive I am to the music that I am trying to portray. For example, if I were to thump or bang away when playing the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross instead of being sensitive to the words in the verses, the piano would definitely not be singing praise or reverence to the Lord. Just as I, as a pianist, can invoke worship and praise from the piano, so can God use us to invoke the same to others.
The psalm ends with all of nature praising the Lord. The seas roar, the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing together with joy. What a picture! I’m sure that many of you have taken vacations by the ocean. For 10 years David and I went to the Bahamas for a few weeks in the winter. Some of our favorite times were just walking the beaches along the Caribbean and listening to the ocean. We were fortunate enough to stay in a place where the beach was literally a 2 minute walk away and often we were the only people on that beach. It was glorious just to sit, be still and feel God’s presence in the song of the sea. All of nature praises the Lord and the reason? He is coming to judge the earth and all the nations with equity (verse 9). The praise described in this psalm is not only for the marvelous things God has done, but also for what He is about to do – “with righteousness He shall rule the world”. What a relief it will be for all creation that has suffered under the sin and rebellion of mankind!
Prayer: Help us Lord, to sing a new song to you each time we come before you. Help us to praise as creation does – with joy! Thank you for Your love and faithfulness. We praise You and adore You. Amen.
Song: Sing to the Lord a New Song (Mark Hayes)
The Lord Reigns - by Richard Neufeld
This 97th Psalm is titled “The Lord Reigns” and isa declaration of His might, awesomeness, and power. In it we see a picture of earth’s natural (and anthropomorphized) elements displaying their fear and joy at the coming of the Lord; “let the many coastlands be glad … the mountains melt like wax before the Lord,” etc.
Fires go before Him, lightnings flash across the sky, the earth sees Him and trembles; all the people of the world see the Lord of hosts and those who have worshiped idols are out to great shame. The Lord is proclaimed and exalted above all the earth, and those who love Him are told to hate evil, for He will preserve the lives of His saints; “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” Again, we are commanded, “Rejoice!”
The theme of nature and creation reacting to the majesty and presence of God is a familiar one, especially in the Psalms.
For example –
We see all of this brought into the Gospels too. In Luke 19 we find the triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem when, first confronted with a joyous, raucous, jubilant crowd and then a group of curmudgeonly Pharisees complaining about the noise, Jesus said “He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””
Clearly, scripture is telling us one very important fact: Just as the sun will rise, just as spring will come, so God will be glorified. It is as inexorable as a flood and as sure as the stars over our heads. Over and over again we see that, at the end of all things, ““’As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God,’”” (Rom. 14:11). Whether righteous or dead in sin, tomorrow or next year or at the end of time, God will be acknowledged for who He is. His promises are sure and have stood the test of time. He is faithful to see you through till the end and forever after. He will be glorified in your victories and struggles and failures. You are secure and safe in the arms of Christ. Just as you are glorified in Him, He will be glorified through you.
There are very few certainties in life. Though many of the things in our day-to-day lives are predictable, there is very little in which we can place absolute 100% certainty. In a world where quite literally anything can happen, anxiety runs rampant as our minds and bodies try to cope with a quickly changing world ahead of us and what can be very real and present troubles and trauma following in our footsteps. So what do we do with something like this? How can we manage to exist as joyful people on a humid and dark Monday morning like today when so much seems to be falling apart?
The answer is this: Find your anchor. Search out and lay hold of something that cannot and will not be moved. It isn’t complicated, though it is difficult. I have personally found and will attest forever that God is the one thing in and above this world that will never, ever change. I cannot be uprooted from Him, whatever happens. Check out Romans 8:37-39: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We all want security and comfort; we all need assurance and a foundation upon which to build our lives. Just as we see the earth on which we live submitting to and rejoicing in God Almighty, we too can live with similar assurity: O Christian, keep in step with Christ when on your feet and rest in His arms when the earth gives way; then you will find your steady anchor and Christ glorified by your life.
Dear Father, we thank you for the presence and promise of your Word. We thank you for the promise and seal of your Holy Spirit, and humbly confess our many and ongoing failures. Know our hearts and create in us an upright heart, so that being pure in heart we may see you and glorify you in all that we do. Amen!
Song: Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor (Matt Boswell)
A New Victory Song (By: Chris Barnes)
TEXT: Psalm 96
Verses 1-3: The psalm begins by summoning all the earth to join in the praise of God, and that praise is to take place among the nations.
Verses 4-6: Here we read that God deserves worship because He is the Creator. He is the only God who deserves praise. In one sense, the other gods exist, but in another, they do not as they are just idols.
Verses 7-10: The worship leader again calls on the whole world to Worship God by ascribing to him the glory and strength which are His.
Verses 11-13: The psalm ends by having all of creation rejoice in God, because He is coming again in the future and He will set all things right again.
INTERPRET: The psalm identifies itself as a new song, a victory shout that celebrates God as Victor, King and Judge. The psalmist is the worship leader who calls on the congregation to offer praise to God. They are to sing to God a new song, a phrase that normally occurs in warfare contexts and implies that it is a shout of victory.
The psalmist calls on Israel, and indeed on the whole cosmos, to praise God as the One who saved His people form warfare, rules over them as King, and is coming in the future as Judge to set things right. God’s people are to come not only with their verbal praise, but also with their offerings given at the sanctuary. Because God is King and in sovereign control, the world is stable. The King is also the One who judges in accordance with what the people deserve.
APPLICATION: In the New Testament, Jesus is our Warrior, but He fights against the spiritual powers and authorities, and not against “flesh and blood”. Thus Christians are not wrong to sing this song of praise to Jesus their Warrior, who has won their spiritual salvation.
Our victory song should not only include praise for the victory that our Warrior God has won, but it should also include praise for all He continues to do for us and all that He has prepared for us. Jesus is our Victor, our King, and also the coming Judge who will restore all of creation to its original harmony. Let us sing this victory song each day, inviting the whole world to join us in praise of the one true God.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I praise you with all my heart. You are my shield, I take refuge in you all the days of my life, and I am safe. I call to you, Lord, for you are worthy of all praise, and I am saved. In my distress I call unto you for I know this battle is not mine, it is yours. Reach from on high and draw me out of all my troubles. Help me to walk in victory. In Jesus’ name, I believe and pray, Amen.
SONG: O God Beyond all Praising
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”
Psalm 95: 6-7
Psalm 95 (& Exodus 17: 1-7)
This Psalm is a call to worship that harbours a sincere warning. As you read the first verses you can almost hear the church bells calling God’s people to worship on a beautiful Sunday morning. Verses that lift the soul! It is a Psalm that appears to be attributed to David (Hebrews 4: 7).
The call to worship focuses the people on who God is and what He has done (3-5). This reality means the people can come to Him with genuine joy and thankfulness, desiring to truly praise Him (1-2). This because of the beautiful relationship they have with their God who is like a shepherd to the sheep, caring and providing for His people (6-7).
As such the people need to humbly bow before God (6), heed His voice (7a) and walk in His way (10b); their hearts must belong to God. Here is where the warning comes in. The people are reminded about their ancestors who quarreled, grumbled against God and tested Him. The Psalm links back to Exodus 17: 1-7. The people had been miraculously saved from slavery in Egypt by God. They had just left the appropriately named Desert of Sin and promptly fell into sin when they ran out of water. Their hearts wandered away and they were ready to stone Moses their leader. In grace, God provided water from the rock for them. The people however did not enter God’s rest nor, that generation, the Promised Land.
God provides liberation from sin and entry into His Kingdom with a new life for us. He has brought living waters (the Holy Spirit) from the Rock of Jesus Christ. We need to give our hearts to God in faith to enter this covenantal relationship with the Good Shepherd where we can receive His care and provision.
Here is where the choice of bikes come in! There are potentially two cycles of behaviour at play here; the cycle of bitterness or the cycle of blessing. In the first our hearts wander from God, this lack of faith leads to grumbling and quarrelling. We test God and do not enter into His rest; this can become a cycle of bitterness in our lives, one where joy is absent. On the second bike we give our hearts to God and put our faith in Him. We praise Him for who He is and what He has done. This causes us to humble ourselves before Him, worship Him and walk in His ways. This is the cycle of blessing that brings us into His rest – real peace of mind heart and soul, a life with genuine joy.
The Questions of Application
These last two years have really challenged us. It is easy for us to lose our joy and thankfulness, grumble and fall into a cycle of bitterness. If however we keep our eyes on God and stand in faith on the rock we can genuinely know God’s blessing and rest. Which bike are you on at the moment?
Almighty God, creator of all, we give you thanks for a world full of wonder, but above all because you have called us into a holy fellowship with you and with each other. Guide us in the ways of this your new creation, rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ the Rock and through Him we ask for living waters to keep us in your rest and enable us in this new life. Lord we give you our hearts, care for them and keep them from wandering. Amen
Rock of ages cleft for me by Chris Rice
Lead me to the Rock by David Baloche
In 2023, 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.