Psalms 116 begins with an important statement. The author explains that, “I love the Lord.” Now, the rest of the Psalm advances to talk about why God deserves to be loved.
Psa 116:1 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
Psa 116:2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
Psa 116:3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Psa 116:4 Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
The first few verses refer to prayer. It is pretty important, and is when you seriously think about it, it is a pretty amazing privilege. Let me propose a kind of analogy. Here in the United States, I can’t just pick up the phone and call President Barack Obama. He is a very busy man, and he has an entire country to run. He’s only human, and he can’t possibly talk to every person who wants to talk to him every day. He might want to, but he would just run out of time and energy.
How much more impressive than is it that we have a God who we can talk to every day whenever we want? However, He is President of the universe if you will. He is the King over everything. Every person on earth can pray simultaneously, and God does not have those kinds of human constraints. It is not like His phone line will be busy, or He needs to get a few hours of sleep at night.
When you compare the direct line we have to God as compared to what we have with anyone on earth, there really is no comparison. God hears our individual voices, and that is why we should call on Him even in times when it is hard. He will always hear us.
The people of Israel noticed something interesting that separated the God of the Bible from the gods of the other religions around them. You hear about some of these differences in Psalms 115, and let me highlight some of them now.
Psa 115:2 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
Psa 115:3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Psa 115:4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
Psa 115:5 They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
Psa 115:6 They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
Psa 115:7 They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
Psa 115:8 They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.
We still deal with verses two and three today. That is such a common challenge for Christianity. People want us to scientifically prove that there is a God. However, it is very hard to scientifically prove something that by definition exists beyond the parameters of science. Science is a great way to systematically understand our universe, but if God is greater than all of that and exists in dimensions beyond that, then we are beyond what science can tell us.
If we can’t use science then, what can we use to demonstrate that there is a God? We can take the claims that we have in the Bible and evaluate how well they match up with what we observe, and if they are correct about observation, then it would be reasonable to trust these documents. If we can trust them for that, then maybe we can trust them for things beyond that.
Then, if the Bible holds up, compare it to the alternatives in the following verses. We are talking about idols that are made by people. They can’t really do anything, but they sit there, and people believe them. The writer of this Psalm is basically saying that there are options out there, but if you realistically look at these other choices, why would you bother? These statues don’t do anything.
Today, we still have choices about what religion we want to follow, and, in America, we are incredibly free to do that. However, I think that this Psalm is calling us all to evaluate what we believe. For Christians, we need to make sure that we know about this God that we claim to worship. For non-Christians, the challenge is made to look at what you are really worshiping. Maybe you will find them to be nothing more than man-made idols, or maybe you won’t. The point is that we all need to evaluate what we are putting our faith in.
Psalms 114 has some unique imagery. The pattern and rhythm are also quite a bit different than what we have seen before.
We are talking here about the children of Israel leaving Egypt and all of the miracles that happened on their trip to the Promised Land.
Psa 114:5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
Psa 114:6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?
Psa 114:7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
Psa 114:8 Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.
The presence of God is doing this stuff. None of this happened because Moses was a fantastic man. It wasn’t because Aaron was a great priest. By and large, both of these statements are true; they were both pretty good at what they did. However, these kind of things can only happen through the power of God.
Of course, as we have talked about before, all of these types of miracles show that God had dominion over nature. At the very least, it indicates that God is an incredibly powerful being, but it also is a decent evidence toward God being the creator. If God has control over nature, while it doesn’t guarantee that He created it, it is definitely possible that He created it. If you create something, you have some degree of control over it.
I think that this is an interesting chapter. It shows us something about the power of God. If there is a God who is this powerful, and if we believe that as Christians, then He certainly deserves our praise.
Psalms 113 is full of praise, and the author is not afraid to tell you why.
Psa 113:4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
Psa 113:5 Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,
Psa 113:6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!
Look at what we are talking about here. We are talking about a God who is so far above His creation that He needs to humble Himself in order to behold His own creation.
Two things stand out to me about that statement.
On one hand, it speaks to the power of God. It speaks to His greatness over all of creation, and when you think about how amazing the universe itself is, you cannot fathom the greatness of God. The universe is so complex that we haven’t figured that out yet. God needs to humble Himself and look that far down at something so complex. God must be a pretty incredible being.
The other impressive thing that stands out to me is the fact that God is willing to be involved with all of us. If he is not much higher than all of us, why would He even bother looking at us? It is a really poor analogy, but how many of us actually consider the lives of bacteria on the daily basis? Do we care about each of those individual life forms that are much lower than us in the order of nature? I really don’t on most days. I don’t know all of them by name. God is special in that way. He does reign on high, and He is far above creation, but He cares about it.
This is a pretty short chapter, but it packs a punch. It helps demonstrate these two very important characteristics about God. He is ridiculously powerful, and He is infinitely caring.
I know I have written about the prosperity gospel before, and I have a feeling that the beginning of Psalms 112 must be a good passage for them to try to use in support of their position.
Psa 112:1 Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
Psa 112:2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
Psa 112:3 Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
I have to admit that it seems an awful lot like there is a cause and effect here. If you follow God and really desire to follow His commandments, your house will receive wealth and riches. Not only that, but at some level, I think we all want that interpretation to be true. Some of us might not have as much money as we want, and this passage seems to provide a way out of poverty. If we simply follow God (which isn’t all that simple), we can escape poverty.
It is no wonder that the prosperity gospel is so popular. That is what people want. People often want financial gain. However, I think that we need to be very careful with this kind of teaching, and we can easily take this to a place where it is no longer Biblical.
We can end up in a contradictory position here. The attitude I outlined before is problematic if our motive for following God is simply based on what we can get. Money has then become our idol, and that means that we are not following the commandments of God mentioned in verse one of the Psalm which means that we will never make it to the reward part if that vision of prosperity is true.
I think that this is the biggest potential downfall of the prosperity gospel. It can very easily lead us into a place where we think about God as a means to an end rather than an end Himself. We can think that we follow God because it will lead to prosperity, but that is not the right perspective. We follow God because He deserves our praise, and while He does bless us in a variety of ways, He is not like a vending machine that we use simply to get what we want. We don’t only follow God because He blesses us in particular ways. That is why this kind of thinking can be dangerous if you take it too far.
I think that on some level, we all want to have some degree of wisdom. There is a very specific way that we acquire wisdom and understanding though according to Psalms 111.
Psa 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Again, I have written about this concept of fear before. Certainly, there is some dimension of fear as we understand it, but I would argue for a broader definition given some of the alternative translations provided by Strong’s Numbers. There is also the dimension of reverence and awe. I like to think of this as kind of like understanding our position relative to God. When we have that in the proper perspective, we will give Him all the recognition that He deserves, and as a result of that, the fear, reverence and awe will come.
If we begin to get wisdom through the fear of God, then it seems as if God is the one that is providing the wisdom. That is important. Why? It is important because it seems that there are many people who argue that they can help you find wisdom.
After all, every world religion makes the same claim as far as I know. There are many philosophies and ideologies that make the same claim.
The fact that we believe that wisdom comes from God does not necessarily make Christianity true. However, it does help emphasize the fact that Christianity needs to stand on its own or not at all.
For example, it cannot be simultaneously true that wisdom comes from God and from Allah. I think that most Muslims would agree with me. This does not mean that we have to hate each other, but we are going to disagree on the source of wisdom.
It also cannot be simultaneously true that wisdom comes from inside ourselves and from God. Again, we have a contradiction here. One or the other may be true, but both cannot be simultaneously true.
I know that my argument here does not prove that Christianity is true, and that was not my intent. However, I think it does dispel the rumor that all religions are essentially the same. That just isn’t true. There are explicitly contradictory claims, and we need to recognize that. Let’s prove Christianity right or wrong, but we really shouldn’t have any of this nonsense regarding many paths leading to one God. Those paths irreconcilably intersect.
Although I understand that it is disputed by some, Psalms 110 seems to be very strongly messianic, and we see quite a bit of evidence to support this conclusion.
Psa 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
First, David is referring to someone as “my Lord.” I don’t know who he would be talking about. Perhaps this could have been written about Saul before they had their falling out, but that would not make a lot of sense given the next phrase.
God is telling this person to sit at His right hand. Who is the only one who belongs at the right hand of God?
Luk 22:67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
Luk 22:68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.
Luk 22:69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
This was said by Jesus shortly before His crucifixion as He was standing before Pontius Pilate. It seems to me then that this claim in the first verse of Psalms 110 is on relatively solid messianic ground. I don’t know who else could have filled both of these criteria.
What is even more interesting is that when we continue in that chapter in Luke, the Jewish people knew what this was referring to.
Luk 22:70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
Luk 22:71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
This is what they needed to condemn him. It was an obvious claim to divinity in the eyes of the people at that time. They knew that when he put Himself on the right hand of God, He was fulfilling a messianic prophecy. However, that was seen as blasphemy.
Prophecy is one of the most interesting things about Jesus. He fulfilled many, many of them was an incredible degree of precision.
Psalms 109 shows us something interesting about the attention that we should seek while we are here on Earth. However, it doesn’t do that by saying that we are excellent human beings who should naturally draw people to ourselves. We don’t necessarily have perfect personalities or all the charisma in the world. Rather, we are in pretty difficult shape, and we don’t deserve the attention. God is the one who has saved us.
Psa 109:22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Psa 109:23 I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
Psa 109:24 My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
Psa 109:25 I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.
Psa 109:26 Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
Psa 109:27 That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
We don’t share our testimonies because we are some kind of super people. We share our testimonies because it tells other people about what an amazing God can do.
This is a tough one for us. In general, humans like attention, and we want other people to think highly of us. We want to have a good reputation. We want people to think that we can do it all on our own and that we had some kind of independent spirit.
However, that is not what we are called to do. We are called to tell people that it is God’s work that makes the difference rather than what we do on our own. That calls for the removal of pride and the growth of humility.
We are here to magnify God not magnify ourselves.
Psalms 108 reiterates one of the most important themes that we should remember from this book.
Psa 108:12 Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
Psa 108:13 Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.
We can do nothing on our own or even with the help of other people. Don’t get me wrong, it is really nice when other people offer to help out. It feels good to have other people help you carry that heavy bookshelf down the stairs. However, I would argue that we need to take a slightly different perspective in order to actually understand what this passage is saying.
Let’s say that we want to do something that is against the will of God. Let’s say that we decide that we want to do something that God has determined He will not allowed. For example, even though there were multiple times where the Pharisees were conspiring to kill Jesus, He did not die until the time was right.
In this kind of situation, it doesn’t matter how many people you have involved on your side. In my example, most of the religious establishment was against Jesus, but that did not matter in the least.
It does not matter because all of the help in the world from humans is ultimately in vain if it is not within the will of God for something that happen. As we have seen in many other chapters, God is the ultimate conductor. He is in charge of everything, and it does not go well when His authority is challenged (think about the rebellion of Satan).
The basic fact of the matter comes back to where we want to place our alliances. We can decide to rely on humans, or we can decide to rely on God. One is going to work out better than the others.
Psalms 107 has a refrain that is repeated several times throughout the chapter.
Psa 107:8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Again, we have seen a lot of this in the Psalms we have been reading, and as it bears repeating one more time. We ought to be praising God because of His goodness and because of the wonderful works that we have seen Him do.
In between this refrain, you get some of the reasons for why we ought to do this. Let’s go into one of them right now.
Psa 107:16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
Psa 107:17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
Psa 107:18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
Psa 107:19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
Psa 107:20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
God has overcome sin. He has conquered it, and one day He will eliminate it from existence once and for all. Look at how the imagery is used. God has broken down the gates. It sounds an awful lot like prison to me, and all of us are trapped inside because we are fools. We are fools because of our sin nature, but we have this thought.
For some reason, we feel like we need to God. There is something within us that causes us to call unto God, and even though we had continually rejected Him up until this point, He is still willing to save us out of whatever problems we are trapped in.
I think that is a pretty good reason to celebrate the goodness and wonderful works of God. Salvation is an incredible privilege that humans do not deserve.