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 18 is a very thankful chapter written by David. He begins by stating his conclusion.
Psa 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Because of everything that is to follow in this chapter, David has concluded that God is all of these things. He is a powerful and personal supreme being who apparently deserves worship or else this Psalm would not have been written.
Then, we are presented with quite a bit of support for this assertion. It begins in the very next verse, and it tells us why God is all of these things listed in verse two.
Psa 18:3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
Psa 18:4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
Psa 18:5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
Psa 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Basically, there were all kinds of problems floating over David’s head, and he knew that he was overwhelmed. He called upon God because he knew that God was the only way he could ultimately overcome all of these evils.
I think that we really need to think about this every day. Sometimes, we think that our problems are so big that we just have to deal with them as best we can. We have to do it on our own because certainly a good God would not allow all of the suffering and difficulty.
However, that perspective needs to be turned on its head. The only reason we even escape these problems is because of the mercy and power of God. The world is undoubtedly a fallen place. There are all kinds of problems that we have to deal with, and many of them seem far beyond our ability to handle.
It seems to me that God helps us handle these problems every day just like He did for David.
Psalms 14 has something very important to tell us about our sin nature. In fact, it explains that our nature is indeed natural.
Psa 14:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
Psa 14:2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
Psa 14:3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
God was looking down at all people and realized that absolutely no one was on the right track. Everyone had turned aside at some point. In other words, everyone has sinned; it is our natural state before we know God. There is no one that does good things all the time. This point is reinforced by some other verses in the Bible, but here is the most popular one.
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
No one’s perfect. No one makes the right decisions all of time. Everyone has done something that hurts someone else.
Although this may seem to be a kind of pessimistic outlook on humanity, it is unfortunately a realistic one. The optimism in the situation comes from the fact that God does forgive. He will always be willing to bring us back. He has that power, and He has that mercy.
He has exactly what we need, and He is willing to give that to us.
The application for today is not really too complicated. We need to get right with God wherever we are. You might not be a Christian, or you might be a Christian. Make sure that you have confessed your sins to God and accept that free gift.
Nehemiah chapter 3 is basically a long list of all the people who repaired various parts of the walls in Jerusalem. Here is a little example of what most of the chapter looks like.
Neh 3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
Neh 3:2 And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.
We find out who was responsible for what part, and we also find out who worked with and beside them.
I personally think that this attention to detail is pretty impressive. Even though I don’t really see a whole lot of profound theological statements in this chapter, I do see an account that was taken meticulously.
Naturally, I believe that the Bible is a result of divine inspiration, so that level of detail in the text itself makes me think that God also pays quite a bit of attention to the seemingly small things in life. There is nothing too small that He doesn’t care about.
Luk 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
Luk 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
It is pretty remarkable.
First of all, God must have a remarkable mind to be able to keep all of these details archived. It cannot be easy to be intricately involved in the lives of every human on earth, but God does it.
Also, I think that that level of detail makes forgiveness even more amazing. If God cares about the details and watches over everything, He also sees all of those “little” sins that we like to sweep under the rug. We do commit a high volume of these, so it makes forgiveness and mercy even more dramatic and massive in scale.
It is impressive. This chapter in Nehemiah goes into remarkable detail, and it tells me that God cares about everything no matter how small. That is a comforting thought.
Ezra 3 finally brings the people back to Jerusalem, and I have to admit that it seemed like they had their priorities right. Immediately, they began working on rebuilding the Temple, and by the end of the chapter, the foundation had been laid and the altar had been built.
This was obviously a highly emotional time for the Israelites though. There was a lot of joy mixed with a lot of sorrow.
Ezr 3:11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Ezr 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:
Ezr 3:13 So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
Of course, this was a happy occasion but also one that brought back tears. I am obviously not entirely sure why they were crying, but I have a few potential ideas.
They could have been weeping over the lost opportunity. Maybe they realized how wrong the people had been 70 years ago. Maybe they couldn’t believe how they had allowed themselves to wander so far from God.
Along with that must have come the realization that God is incredibly merciful. Despite all of the wandering and bad behavior, God had not forgotten His people. Recognizing our sin nature and then the forgiving nature of God is certainly a powerful contrast that could have moved their emotions.
You know, this can be kind of a metaphor. We are removed from where we should have been because of our sin nature. It is something that we are born with. We then spend time away from the ideal location and in captivity to sin. However, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can be brought back to God just like the Israelites were because of His love and mercy.
I know it is not a perfect metaphor, but forgiveness is a huge deal and should not be taken lightly. Realizing that we are separated from God but can be reconciled should be a pretty emotional thought.
I am convinced that mercy is one of the strongest forces in the universe. Because God has shown us such amazing mercy, I guess there are times when we pass it on when all of the world would say that we really shouldn’t.
In 1 Samuel 24, David was hiding in a cave, and it just happened to be that Saul and his men decided to spend the night in that cave. Obviously, this would have been the perfect opportunity for David to kill Saul and be done with this entire business.
However, that isn’t what he did. He went to Saul and cut off a piece of his shirt, but he did not harm him in any way.
After Saul left in the morning, David yelled out to him and told him that he had every opportunity to kill him the night before, but he refrained.
Here is how Saul responded.
1Sa 24:16 And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
1Sa 24:17 And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
1Sa 24:18 And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not.
1Sa 24:19 For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.
1Sa 24:20 And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
I have to imagine what might have happened if David had killed Saul right then. There probably would have been a civil war, and the people who still loved Saul as ruler would have been incredibly upset.
In the way that David operated, he was able to diffuse the situation, protect his own life and not take Saul’s life. His mercy made it better than vengeance would have.
We are called to do the same thing. We are not supposed to lash out at people.
Luk 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Luk 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Mercy will always triumph over vengeance, and since vengeance is not supposed to be ours anyway, I hope that we all can be a little bit more merciful today.
I think that it is sometimes easy for Christians to feel like we have some sense of entitlement. Because we try our best to follow the will of God, everything will work out well because God owes it to us. God has great plans for us as I always point out from Jeremiah, but those plans are not a result of our goodness.
That kind of attitude was taking root with the Israelites as well in Deuteronomy chapter 9. Moses was warning them not to think that they were receiving the Promised Land because of their own goodness.
Deu 9:4 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
This is a major problem with Christian culture today as well. There are many Christians that forget that we are still sinners who are saved by a merciful God. Becoming a Christian does not mean becoming perfect. If that was the proof of our salvation, we all would fall short.
Yes, we absolutely strive for perfection because we are trying to emulate Jesus, and as we all know, He was perfect. However, we are still going to make mistakes, and we will still need forgiveness.
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
So, I think this is the challenge for all of us as we begin the New Year tomorrow. Yes, we do have something special because we have God living within us. That absolutely sets us apart.
However, we are still sinners saved by grace. God doesn’t give us our Promised Land because of how good we are. It is only by the grace of God that we can have our inheritance.
Numbers chapter 18 made me think a little bit about the nature of possessions. Basically, this situation involves God speaking to Aaron about the Levites. He is outlining all of the rights and responsibilities of being the tribe of priests, but one particular thing stood out to me.
Num 18:20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
I think it is particularly interesting in this situation that this is very similar language to what we see in the New Testament. Because we are believers in Jesus, we also have an inheritance in heaven.
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Essentially, we have hope of living with God forever because of the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, God Himself is our inheritance on some level.
The reason I am jumping to that conclusion is because, without faith in Jesus as well as His mercy, we would spend eternity separated from Him. Consequently, if we do know Him, our inheritance is spending eternity with Him. That is how I drew that conclusion.
Think about the implications of this though. The Israelites needed to have a specific tribe that had God as their inheritance. Now, we are allowed to directly approach Jesus Christ who acts as our mediator. It is an amazing privilege.
First of all, happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope that you all have something great to do with family today.
Numbers chapter 6 is not necessarily a typical Thanksgiving passage, but I still have a pretty uplifting thought for today.
Num 6:22 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 6:23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
Num 6:24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
Num 6:25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
Num 6:26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
Num 6:27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
If you think about all of the things listed in these verses, the people of Israel had an awful lot to be thankful for. God was going to bless them, keep them, let his face shine upon them, and be gracious to them, and ultimately give them peace.
What’s not to like about that?
Today, we have the same relationship with God. When we are a child of His and abide in Him, He will do all of these things for us.
God is good all the time, and we should praise a lot more than we do. Even if we are praising for 23 hours a day, it should be a continual activity. Our entire life should be full of praise for who God is, what God has done, and what He will do.
Psa 34:1 A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psa 150:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
Psa 150:2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Psa 150:3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Psa 150:4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Psa 150:5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Psa 150:6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
I hope that you all have an excellent Thanksgiving, and I hope that we all can take time to thank God for everything that He has done for us.
In Leviticus chapter 5, we have found another set of sacrifices for another set of sins. However, in my opinion, the most interesting part of this chapter lies in between the sin and sacrifice.
Lev 5:5 And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
Confessing that we have messed up is the first step to asking for forgiveness from God. Even though we don’t literally need to sacrifice animals like they did in the Old Testament, we need to confess our sins to God and He will be faithful to forgive us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Psa 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
In both of these instances, it is obvious that confession comes before forgiveness. While confession may obviously be intimidating because nobody likes to admit they did something wrong, God will always take us back like prodigal children.
We shouldn’t have wandered at the beginning, but isn’t it nice to know that we can be forgiven when we mess up? It would be inaccurate to take this as a free pass to do whatever we want, but we know that we can be forgiven from all of our sins.
Here is an excellent verse that speaks to the power of the forgiveness of God.
Mic 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Mic 7:19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
God will forgive us, and He will throw all of our sins into the depths of the sea. They will not be with us anymore, and God will have mercy on us.
So, starting from this idea of forgiveness that we find in Leviticus, we can follow the entire path to forgiveness which we don’t deserve, but because God is merciful, we can be forgiven.