Words are powerful, and Psalms 120 shows the damage that we can do if we are left to our own methods and devices.
Psa 120:2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Psa 120:3 What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?
We are given some rhetorical questions. What are we supposed to do with our tongue? What can we give to our words to make them better?
The only answer is in verse two. God can help us with this. There is a reason that the writer of this Psalm is going directly to God. Where else can you go?
We live in an era of political correctness, and I have to admit that it is very hard if not impossible to keep up with standards that seem to change every day. Sometimes, I think that it is a bit ridiculous how often we change what is the appropriate term for something, but there is a grain of truth buried in this popular trend. People understand that words are powerful, and they understand that words can do damage. I am sure that that was the original intention behind the political correctness movement, and I agree with that regardless of how far the rest of it has gone.
If we all have this understanding that words are powerful and potentially harmful, and then we should have some kind of desire to fix it. That is where people try to create laws or whatever else to help the situation. That might work on some level, but there is a very important reason that the Psalmist went to God with this one.
This is a heart issue. Changing people from the inside is certainly a good way to change what comes out of our mouths. This is God’s specialty. He comes into people’s lives and transforms them. I’m sure most of you can think of either yourself or some other person who turned their lives around after coming to God.
In order to control the tongue, we need to surrender it. We need to be willing to give it, along with our entire lives, to God. Even though we can make laws that might lessen certain behaviors through the fear of punishment, the only way that we can ultimately master what we say is by getting our deliverance from God.
You know that one of the main reasons I decided to only write about one chapter of the Bible every day is so that I can really engage with the material. I would not be able to skip over those unpopular chapters if I committed to writing about every single chapter. Those chapters are in there for a reason, and we ought to remember that.
All of that being said, one day is not nearly enough time to look at everything from Psalms 119. There are 176 verses in this chapter, and as you probably know, that makes it the longest chapter in the Bible. I know that I cannot address everything in one day, but I want to call your attention to something in the middle of the chapter that I believe integrates some of the major themes running through it.
Psa 119:49 ZAIN. Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
Psa 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.
Psa 119:51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.
Psa 119:52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.
Psa 119:53 Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
Psa 119:54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
Psa 119:55 I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy law.
Psa 119:56 This I had, because I kept thy precepts.
This is one of the subsections that the chapter is broken down into, and I think it reminds us of something incredibly important.
We need to give loyalty God no matter what the world says. The proud might hold us in derision. People tend to do that, and you don’t need to go very far on the Internet to find people mocking Christianity (Richard Dawkins, anyone?).
What do we learn from this portion of the chapter about handling those situations?
We need to remember not only what God has done, but we also need to remember what God has promised. That is one of the reasons the Bible is so important. It provides us with the history behind our faith, but it also tells us about how we ought to act in our world today. As we maintain that connection with God, the mocking might still remain, but we are promised that we will have the strength to endure (Philippians 4:13).
All of a sudden, we will be able to identify with what Jesus said about the relationship between His followers and the world.
Joh 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
Joh 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Let’s summarize here. We need to remember God no matter what the world does to us. People are going to ridicule or hate if they want to, but we cannot let people turn us away. I would hope that our belief in God is not simply the product of the court of public opinion. I would hope that each one of us has a solid foundation in our beliefs.
It is funny how things kind of seem to run together all at the same time. I was at a Bible study on Saturday night, and we were talking about the idea of Biblical hope. We were talking about how important it is for our hope to be grounded in God.
Psalms 118 brings up this theme again, and it tells us where it would probably be better if we did not place our trust.
Psa 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
Psa 118:9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
Let’s take each one in turn.
Is it better to trust in God, or is it better to trust in other people? Well, let me tell you from my experience. People have a way of letting you down. You expect that people will act a certain way, or you expect that they will do something that they never follow through on. People definitely have a way of letting you down from time to time. In fact, sometimes it feels like everyone is letting you down. I know that I haven’t explained why God is better to put your trust in, but I think it is pretty clear that people don’t always follow through. We have all experienced that.
Then, putting our confidence in princes might not be so hot either. I don’t want to go on some kind of anti-government rant, but let me summarize it for you. I think it would be fair to say that there are many points where each of us disagree with the government. After all, it is a system made up of people, and we already established that people have a tendency to disappoint us. If one person can disappoint us, then certainly a collection of people can disappoint us with the decisions that they make. So, again, I haven’t told you why trusting God is better, but I think you can also agree that governments have a way of disappointing us no matter what side of the political spectrum to fall on.
So, if it is not wise to trust in other people or government, why is God any better?
Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
This is a saying of Jesus, and He is basically saying that fearing people is kind of pointless. People don’t have any kind of eternal control over you. God on the other hand has that kind of eternal control. He is the ultimate Judge, and that is something that people cannot ever do.
Now, that verse in Matthew probably could use a little bit more explanation to fully appreciate. If you go on in the chapter, you can read about how much God cares about us. You read about how we are more valuable than a few sparrows. As a result of that value, Jesus says that we don’t need to fear.
So where does that leave us?
Well, here is how it seems to me. Verse 28 says don’t worry about people who might kill you because it is far worse to ultimately be condemned. Any bodily pain is nothing compared to that type of eternal punishment. This is a comparative statement. Basically, if you are going to fear people who hurt you, don’t bother because you might as well be terrified of God since He can do a lot more.
However, when you move ahead in the chapter, we find that we have value to God, and if we are children of His, we do not need to fear that type of eternal punishment. Does that kind of makes sense?
It is a chain. Never worry about what other people can do to because God is much more deserving of that terror. We ought to be petrified of Him because of the power that He holds over all of these eternal matters. However, because of verse 32, we don’t need to fear about our eternal destiny because God has promised a way to avoid that condemnation. We don’t lose our fear of God, but we can lose the fear of the consequence. If you are Christian, you do not need to worry about spending eternity separated from God.
I am sorry for the tangent, but I want to try to tie this all back together. If everything I said about the teaching of Jesus from Matthew is true, God has control over eternal things. Jesus taught that, and He taught that humans have limited power.
If we take that truth and apply it to Psalms, we see why it matters. We can trust in God because He has control over eternity, and that is why it is better to trust in Him than to trust in people or governments. Their power is so greatly limited. I know that I kind of took to the long way around on this one, but I think the concept is valuable. Even though we might be terrified that God has the kind of power that can condemn people, it is also a confirmation that if we place our trust in Him, that trust is well-placed. He has the power to come through in a way that nothing on earth can.
Today is a monumental day for two reasons. First, Psalms 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible with only two verses for us to talk about. That’s pretty cool.
However, the even bigger news is that after you have read this post, we have officially made it more than halfway through the Bible! There are 1189 chapters, and this is my 595th post. A special thank you to all of you who have made it this far with me.
Now, on to the chapter. I guess I will copy all of it for you.
Psa 117:1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
Psa 117:2 For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.
We have heard most of this content before, but verse one tells us to praise God while verse two remind us why we ought to do that.
We ought to praise God for two major reasons, and they really encompass a lot of territory between them. For one thing, we need to love God because He is merciful and kind. We have seen this kind of them before, but I tend to think of forgiveness as an illustration of this. God doesn’t need to forgive us, and He would be well within His rights to simply let us deal with our own consequences. However, the mercy of God is obvious when you consider that we have this offer of forgiveness.
The second reason is that the truth of God endures forever. It combines very nicely with the previous reason. God is not going to all of a sudden change His mind and pull away that gift of forgiveness. God is true. He is not going to play a trick on you. We like it when our friends are true, so I think it is a very good thing that God has that characteristic.
Even though we have heard a lot of what Psalms 117 has to say in the previous Psalms, it is very comforting to remember that God is merciful, and God is true.
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.