Psalm 110:1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Psalm 110 Assurance of Victory for God’s Priest-King Of David. A Psalm. 1 The LORD says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
We are not kings of a small country surrounded by larger and more powerful enemies as David was. So if we are to use this Psalm for a devotion at all, we have to do it metaphorically, that is, our situation must be similar to King David’s. How can that ever be the case? We are, in a sense, king of our own souls, and we have many “enemies” in life. What are these “enemies?” Eating too much and sleeping too much, pride, wanting things that are not ours, being envious of others, losing our temper, wanting to be close in a sexual to people who are not our spouses. These are the 7 deadly sins we Christians are supposed to watch out for. They are deadly, because they keep us from doing and being good. They may even lead to our downfall. But if we stay in close contact with God, in that sense “sit at God’s right hand,” God will make these enemy sins bow to our wills and judgment. Stay close to God and even if you are weak, you are powerful, because you have God’s power to help you.
God Almighty, let us sit with you always and use your power to withstand temptation.
Psalm 109:1-2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. 1 Do not be silent, O God of my praise. 2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.
Psalm 109 is uncomfortable for us today. It is basically David asking God to curse and wreak vengeance upon his enemies. Later verses are even more vindictive. Two things are important to remember about the Psalms. First, they are expressions of everyday emotion that people have. Second, what David and others in Psalms express and how David and others express those emotions seem not always the best and honestly, are not always charitable towards others. Not the best, perhaps, but real. I don’t think God endorses everything David expresses in the Psalms any more than God endorses the wicked deeds David sometimes did. Why is this Psalm (and others like it) in our Bible, then? It shows we are allowed to express our anger to God. God can sort out the righteous call for justice in the midst of our outbursts in prayer.
Good God, help us get out our frustrations in prayer. Help us to understand what is good and bad in what we say to you. Give us justice when others oppress us. Amen.
Psalm 107:8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
Today we have the flip side of yesterday’s devotion. Yesterday, I wrote about the pitfalls of people playing God. Today I write about another problem we mortals have. It’s not honoring God for playing God. Or rather, not honoring God for what God does. In the verse above, the Psalmist implies that the Israelite people hadn’t been thanking God for what God does (otherwise, why would the psalmist say “Let them thank God?”). Many people today have the same problem.
Why don’t we recognize God for who God is and does?
It could be that we’re not paying attention. If I were God, and people weren’t paying attention to the good things I was giving them, I would not be happy. Failing to thank God (and others) is focusing too much on ourselves.
It could be that we recognize what God does but we have trouble acknowledging it. After all, when we admit God is so loving and powerful, we see how small and powerless we are compared to God. When we have trouble acknowledging who God is and does, that’s pride.
But we can and should recognize and acknowledge God’s work in the world. We might be a little afraid to do that and understandably so. With mortals who have power over us, most of us are at least a little afraid. But we must understand that God is not like us people. God is all-powerful and all-good. God doesn’t abuse the power God has.
Lord, let me thank you every day for what you have done for us. Amen.
Psalm 106:1-2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 1 Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the LORD, or declare all his praise?
When I was younger, I wanted to God in the worst way. I saw the movie The 10 Commandments with Charlton Heston. In that movie God could do some amazing deeds of power, I saw the movie Oh, God with George Burns. and God had a great sense of humor and he could manipulate time and space.
But being God for humans is always a humbling experience. Because we are not good, because we are not perfect, when we play God we mess up. We play God like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty. With ultimate power, sooner or later we end up in big trouble. The only way to be all-powerful in a good way is to be totally good, and we’re not. Only God is both all-powerful and all good. That’s why we give thanks. Our God is not a dictator.
God, Mighty and Good, we thank you that you are God and we are not. Amen
Luke 6:9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”
Why are there judges? Because having laws is not enough. We have to interpret what the laws mean in a particular circumstance. Laws can crush people if they are interpreted literally and inflexibly. Life is complicated enough that we need people to specialize in such interpretation.
Laws are designed to help people, not hurt them. People are more important than laws. Jesus pointed this out to the Pharisees. They were angry because Jesus was healing on the Sabbath. But to fail to heal a man because work was forbidden on the Sabbath was cruel.
Bottom line is, we should never hesitate to help someone. We should help even if it means doing something in a way that seems unusual or even “improper.” Skip church if you must, to paint someone’s house before it rains. Skip prayers if it means you can get to the food pantry on time and help more people. Don’t worry! Jesus said it was okay.
Just and Merciful God, teach us the difference between justice and mercy. Amen
Jonah 4:6-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 6 The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.
When I was younger, I always wished bad on my “enemies.” My “enemies” were kids from other neighborhoods who were sometimes nasty to our neighborhood. It is easy to wish bad on others, because you feel they get what they deserve.
Now that I’m older I see that such revenge is often unhelpful. If people suffer, they often get even more bitter and more troublesome, and can’t see what they did was wrong. It’s best if people can recognize their evil and simply repent. There is enough trouble in the world. I still struggle from time to time, wishing people get what they deserve.
God told Jonah to preach to Ninevah so it would repent. Jonah was secretly hoping evil Ninevah wouldn’t repent, so God would destroy the city. But Ninevah repented. The city was spared. The prophet Jonah was angry Ninevah was saved. His anger was wrong. God made Jonah a living parable to teach a lesson.
After Ninevah repented, Jonah was grumbling to God about it. The sun was hot that day. God helped Jonah by growing a plant to shade him. After he experienced the cool of the shade for a while, God sent a worm to wither the plant. The shade was gone. Jonah got angry.
The point was simply that Jonah did nothing to create the shade plant, and he shouldn’t have gotten angry when it died. And likewise, Jonah shouldn’t have gotten angry about the salvation of Ninevah, because that was God’s business, not his. Why destroy something without need? Likewise, we were made good and to be good. If someone evil truly repents, avoiding punishment, we should rejoice.
Mighty God, teach us the lesson of Jonah. Help us to rejoice with You when bad people repent. Amen.
Deuteronomy 26:5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 5 you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.
This verse was the faith statement of Biblical Israel. Its ancestors wandered around much of the ancient near east until they arrived in Egypt. Then they wandered about in the desert for 40 years before they finally settled in the land of Canaan. After many generations, they were huge. They had limitless potential because they were God’s country. The Hebrew nation was huge and their potential was huge. Yet they often fell far short of their potential when they left God, and after hundreds of years, the country even split in two, before being conquered.
Most of us, or our ancestors, were aliens in this country. My grandfather’s family came over from England because they were poor and wanted a better life. That has been the American dream since the very beginning. The hope was that this nation under God would be better than any other nation elsewhere, and by hard work there would be a better life. America is not so very different than the Hebrew nation. America is huge and our potential is huge, as well. But we’re not in the promised land yet. And once we get to the promised land of justice for all, we still have to work to keep it
I’m asking you that for a devotion today you pray specifically for your nation The United States of America. It is one nation under God that could easily become two; it’s almost two nations already: red and blue.
God of greatness, make us a greater nation. Restore areas of goodness that are in peril. Give us greatness in ways we’ve never had. Be with our people, so that no more people die needlessly, and no more cities are destroyed. Amen.