Psalm 145:1-3 The Greatness and the Goodness of God Praise. Of David. 1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
Praise is often used in devious ways. A salesman will praise his or her customer. Parents will praise their kids to get them to keep behaving well. Neither of these things is the case here, with God. David is not simply trying to flatter God, here, because God can see right through such flattery (most parents can, too.) So why is David praising God? Maybe because God helped him with Goliath or to help his country Israel. That is to say, maybe it’s way of thanking God. Maybe it’s simply because David is a good man and he speaks the truth. But I think one reason is that David not only recognizes the truth about God, but wants to be certain God knows it. Why praise God? Because it helps US too. We remind ourselves that good and powerful God is on our side. And that is a pretty powerful when life has been handing us a lot of lemons to make lemonade.
Good God, remind us constantly of all the good things you have done for us, so that we can face the future without fear.
Psalm 144:1-2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) - Of David. 1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; 2 my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under me.
Israel was such a small country they had to be ready to do battle at any moment. It is the same today. Israel has a draft for both men and women, and is one of the largest armies in the region. War, and the language of war, were both very common to people from every era, in all areas of the globe, until recently. Wars continue. Even in the US today, there have been several wars during my lifetime: Vietnam war, First Gulf war, Second Gulf war/Afghanistan, plus other smaller actions elsewhere. Even though these wars, and the language of war are part of our human history they are repulsive to many people. Many old “battle” hymns such as Onward Christian Soldiers have fallen out of favor, and Psalm 144 and other Scriptures with warlike language are never found in our lectionary readings for worship. What can be gained by reading such an ancient battle hymn? Well, we don’t prepare for much actual war in our daily lives, yet we still have to prepare for “spiritual warfare.” Ephesians 6 and 2 Cor. 10 talk about the life of the spirit in the same warlike terms. For those who are comfortable with such an analogy there are many other New Testament references. If they work for you, use them; if they don’t, then put them aside. Honestly, it might be easier to get men involved in churches if we spoke of spiritual lives in such terms. The glory of war (in video game form these days) still appeals to many young men (and older men). To banish such language also completely also divorces us from most of religious literature and history.
God, I struggle with evil in this world. Help me to wage spiritual warfare within myself and the world to make this world a better place. Amen.
Psalm 143:1-2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies A Psalm of David. 1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. 2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
Today is another prayer of David when his enemies are in hot pursuit. Whether the enemy is Saul or someone else, it does not say. The thing to reember about David here (and elsewhere) is that he could be a ____! (censored), but he could also repent and be humble afterwards. He committed adultery, had someone killed, stole his wife, but he also did great things like slaying Goliath for God and Israel. Other Old Testament heroes like Jacob and Joseph are similar. They could be nasty at times, but they returned to God again and again in sorrow. God could work with them for great good, in spite of their sin. Nobody is perfect and when we stray, we should repent. Men and women of God are far from perfect. But though they (we) stray momentarily, mostly we return and renew that connection to God. It’s when we don’t return to God that there’s a problem. But that’s another devotion.
Perfect God, thank you for loving us so much that you keep forgiving us. Amen.
Psalm 142 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Prayer for Deliverance from Persecutors A Maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A Prayer. 1 With my voice I cry to the LORD; with my voice I make supplication to the LORD. 2 I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
David is in trouble, probably when Saul was after him. He is hiding, for King Saul was trying to kill him. 1 Samuel 24 recalls a time when David was hiding in a cave and Saul found him there, or rather David found Saul, when Saul walked in unexpectedly. A maskil imparts wisdom. What wisdom is here?
First, David knows that he can get angry with God. God can handle it. Second, David chooses to pray to God because he believes God can help. Third, He knows God will listen. He was angry because he had done no wrong, yet Saul was persecuting him.
There is wisdom in knowing where to turn, and in pouring out your heart to God or another person. If it’s possible to express your anger, do it because anger, if suppressed, can lead to illness or depression. But how you express your anger is the key. It’s best not to act out in ways that are destructive to people or property. It is better to tell someone you’re angry, either the person you’re angry with or someone who can do something about it. David talks to God because God have a relationship where they can talk about anything.
When was the last time you talked to God about your troubles? It can really help!
Lord, open my heart so I can speak freely to you, and thank-you for listening. Amen
Psalm 141:2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Holden Evening Prayer, by Composer Marty Haugen, is a lovely meditative prayer service. Words of the service are taken from Scripture. This verse above is made into a round, so that the music and the thought wear away our cares and resistance to God, so we can receive and experience anew the grace and love of God. In the decades since it was introduced, Holden Evening Prayer has become a staple of many Lutheran Lenten Services.
The verse brings to mind the concept of “examen.” Examen is exploring your past actions while engaging your conscience. In this way, Christians for centuries have seen where they have sinned, and where they’ve done well. A great way and time to do examen is daily, at the end of the day. In this way, after asking God for forgiveness, any of us can sleep in peace, with a slate wiped clean.
Lord, help me examine my life before you without fear so that I may rest well tonight and always. Amen.
Psalm 140:4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 4 Guard me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent who have planned my downfall.
Not long ago, my wife Erika and I rewatched the movie Pinocchio when it appeared online. Pinocchio is an allegory about growing up. The wooden puppet Pinocchio is inexperienced in the ways of the world so the fairy who brought him to life gave him a conscience named Jiminy Cricket. Pinocchio and his conscience Jiminy become separated, and several misadvadventures result. In the end, the marionette brought to life becomes a real boy (after he shows his bravery).
In real life, as in stories, there are often wicked people who plot our downfall, or at very least care nothing if we’re harmed as a result of their actions. The Psalmist acknowledges evil and the need for protection. That’s why the Psalmist prays to God for help.
To navigate through this world of sin is not easy. But blessedly the Holy Spirit is our conscience, and unlike Jiminy Cricket, is never separated from us. We become ”real” (become all God intended for us) when we show courage in the face of evil. When we pray, God is always there to guard and protect us, and will strengthen our resolve against evil.
Lord, we acknowledge that we are inexperienced in the ways of the world, the ways of sin. Guide us and keep us from evil. Give us courage to live life well. Amen
Psalm 139:7-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms, so I am surprised that I haven’t written a devotion about it yet. But after searching, I found no such devotion so I get to write one. Good for me (and hopefully for you, too).
Psalm 139 is one of the longer psalms at 24 verses. The main point of the psalm is how amazing God is. The verses above are beautiful poetry, both in the original Hebrew language and in its English translation. They make it clear that God can reach us wherever we are.
If anything, such a reach is even more amazing for us Christians today, because scientists have shown the universe is much bigger than the ancients thought. We have learned the skies are even greater than anything we could imagine (more than 40 billion light years) and heaven is beyond that. Our God seems even greater to us than God did to folks more than 2000 years ago (when this psalm was written.)
We can’t get away from God. Elijah tried. Jonah tried. Neither succeeded. God will never forsake us. God will guide and support us wherever we are physically and emotionally, if we ask.
All-Searching God, thank you for being a help to us always! Amen.