Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you that hope in the LORD.
- Psalm 31:24
In God David puts his trust. This psalm is one of praise for the Lord’s goodness. David concludes with the quoted verse above. If we hope in the Lord, then we should have courage. And then we shall have strength from the Lord. The sequence of stages here is of interest. First, we should be of good courage and then the Lord will strengthen us. We can see that the initiation begins with us. We must dare to take the first step. This is how our hope can be demonstrated. If we truly hope in Him, then we are willing to take that first step. He will not leave us hanging and leave our efforts spent in vain. It’s like when Joshua led the Israelites to the edge of the Jordan river. Only this one river separated them from finally stepping foot on the Promised Land. God told Joshua that to cross the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark shall stand in the Jordan (Jos 3:8). At this point, they could only trust and hope in the Lord in order to cross this river. But, the river did not open first. What happened first was that the feet of the priests dipped into the edge of the water. Only after this did the water open for the people to cross (Jos 3:15-16). We see here the same sequence of stages as described by David. They put their hope in God. Then they took courage and took that first step, in manifestation of their trust in God. Then God fulfilled their hopes. Hope and trust are not something invisible and passive. Rather, they are evident in the actions taken in our daily lives.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise You? Shall it declare Your truth?
- Psalm 30:9
In David’s plea for the mercy of the Lord, he says this - I cannot praise you if I return to dust. He reasons with God saying that if he dies then he cannot praise the Lord. He says that there is no profit in his death. This is an interesting way to “bargain” with God and it allows us to reflect on our own lives. Would it be of no profit if we were to perish? Or, will it be of no loss if we perish? While we are alive, are we no different than dust to God? This reasoning of David’s was in fact a conviction that he made as a promise to God. As long as he lived, he would praise God and declare His truth. He would ensure that his life would be of greater value than dust in the sight of God. This is reminiscent of Paul’s exhortation, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).” Our life and our bodies should be valuable to God - otherwise, what purpose is there in sustaining our lives? Paul says that this is reasonable for us to do. This is logical and sensible. “For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).” Our being and existence are not in our own control nor do they originate from our own will. Our lives are a gift of God and what He has given, He can freely take back (Job 1:21). Therefore, we ought to do good with what we have been given otherwise it defeats the purpose of receiving this life. Just as a pen that does not write is thrown away, a life that brings no glory to God will simply return to dust. What kind of life do we lead? Are our lives of any profit to God? Or are we no different than dust?
Give to the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
- Psalm 29:2
In Greek, the word used for beauty in this verse can also be translated as adornment. So another translation has the second half of the verse as, “Worship the LORD in holy array.” This verse gives us two fundamental concepts of worship. First, we should give glory to God. It is important to come before Him with thanksgiving and humility. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).” In prayer, we should learn to praise God and not only ask for our own needs. In fact, He understands what we need even better than we do ourselves. Praise Him for His magnificence. Second, we must worship God in holiness. It is beautiful to be adorned with holiness. “Your adornment must not be merely external— braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:3-4).” It is most important to come before the Lord in holiness. If we do not have this array of holiness, it does not matter how spectacularly we are outwardly dressed. The Bible often reminds us to put on the new self. One of the characteristics of this new self is holiness (Ephesians 4:24). Let us examine our mindsets and attitudes when we worship God. We should ensure that we come with pure intentions and a holy heart. If we have erred in some way, we need to strive to put those old ways away. Otherwise, it is difficult to reach God. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).” So, when we seek to worship God, let us do so with praise and holiness. In this way we can truly be found beautiful in the eyes of God.
To you will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if You be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.
- Psalm 28:1
David earnestly pleads for the Lord to hear his prayer and answer him. This he needs badly, otherwise he would feel like those who go down into the pit. What does it mean to go down into the pit? “But You, O God, shall bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You (Psalm 55:23).” The pit is the place of destruction and condemnation. It is a place reserved for those who are evil. “For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness (Isaiah 38:18).” Those who go down into the pit can have no hope. The pit is a place that is apart from God. This was David’s great fear. If he could not hear the voice of God, he felt that he would be hopeless and far from God. This was something that he could not bear. This was how intensely he needed to be with God and God to be with him. It was with this attitude that David was able to live a life pleasing to God. In the end, David was greatly blessed, becoming a standard of doing what was right in the sight of God (2 Chronicles 19:2, 2 Kings 18:3). Even God said of David, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who shall fulfill all My will (Acts 13:22).” Thus, we too can follow in David’s example. We too should yearn for the Lord’s response to our cries. Of course, for this to happen, we must be ready to hear Him. We need to quiet ourselves down to be able to hear and accept God’s words. If we have too many complications and too much of our own will, it is often difficult to hear others. So, we need to leave room for God. How much room we leave for Him will be determined by how greatly we need Him. For David, being apart from God was no different than death. This is how deeply he needed God. What about for us?
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
- Psalm 27:1
David was able to live without fear because he knew that God was there to help him. He had nothing to be afraid of as long as God was his light. We too can be like this - living without fear. But one thing is needed, and that is for God to be the strength of our lives. How can we attain to this? How do we allow God to be the strength of our lives? In an increasingly competitive society, we are taught to be strong. One must never show weakness and if you can’t do something then you need to learn how. Being incapable of something means being a failure and someone who has given up. Society teaches us to trust and rely on ourselves and our own capabilities. But, in order for God to be our strength, it is necessary for us to be able to acknowledge our insufficiency. We must be able to realize that however capable we may be, we are still incomparable to God. However great the accomplishments of men, we must recognize that the accomplishments of God are far greater. When we can see this, we can learn to trust in God. We can learn to let Him take care of our fears. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation (Isaiah 12:2).” For God to be our strength, we have to trust in Him and stop being afraid. It takes effort to eliminate those feelings of worry, anxiety and fear. It is an instinct to feel anxiety or fear. We need a renewed perspective to be able to overcome these feelings. This comes when we can fully submit ourselves to the power of God. This comes when our trust in Him is evident not just in our words but also our thoughts and actions. This comes when we believe in God in all our entirety. When we believe in God and walk in His ways, we will be assured that, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do to me (Psalm 118:6)?” If the Lord is on our side, what can anyone or anything or any situation do to us? May the Lord be the strength of us all.
O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells.
- Psalm 26:8
This is David’s declaration and truly, this was also how he lived his life. David loved the Lord and God acknowledged David as a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). It was David who hoped to build a grand temple for the Lord (2 Samuel 7:2). Throughout his life, David sought to be near the Lord. As a king, he had much in possessions. Despite this, he still sought one thing. “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4).” What do we seek after? Where is the place that we love to be? David was not just willing but eager to dwell in the house of God forever. Do we yearn to be with the Lord in the same way? As we spend this portion of our lives in this world, do we also find joy in the dwelling of the Lord? Or is it only a place where we force ourselves to go? Is it a place where we are easily bored and eager to leave? Is it a place where we spend our time thinking of other places that we would rather be and other things that we would rather be doing? Is it a place where we would rather stay as short as possible? When we observe the way services are arranged in many churches today, we realize that there are identical ones scheduled at multiple times, all with durations of one or two hours. Disregarding, for the moment, the fact that these services are rarely held on the Sabbath, the day of worship has merely become the hour of worship. Many have come to the point of being willing to only spare an hour a week to be in the dwelling of God. It goes without saying that many would much rather be elsewhere. So, the question that we must again ask ourselves is, do we love the habitation of the Lord’s house? Do we too desire to dwell in His house always? Whose heart are we truly after - God’s or our own?
Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for You are the God of my salvation; on You do I wait all the day.
- Psalm 25:5
In this psalm David expresses his reliance and trust in the Lord. He understands that God is the One who can save him. Therefore he waits for the will of God rather than going forth in his own methods. It is important for us too to realize that it is God who brings salvation. Only then do can we be willing to be led in His truth and teachings. A struggle that many face is that they want to choose the set of teachings that suits them. They want to choose the “truth” that they can accept. But, it is God who saves (Acts 4:12). If God is the One who saves then we should be following in His way of salvation. What good is it if we only follow the teachings that we find agreeable when this is not the way of God? This is something that often happens when one is “selecting” a faith or religion. One will have a set of criteria that God must have. It is ironic when the attempt is made to restrict God in what He “ought” to be. If we can choose what God is to be like and determine all His necessary characteristics, then He is no longer God - we have, in fact, invented a god who is pursuant to our wishes. Then, having invented god, we are already greater than this god and here is the irony - why worship one lesser than yourself? The truth is, we cannot choose who God is - He is who He is and we simply have a choice of accepting Him or rejecting Him. When we come to this understanding, we will no longer feel the need to question the ways of God. He is the One with authority and power. He is the One who saves so it is in His way that we should follow. The willingness to submit to God is a first step in receiving His teachings. “Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose (Psalm 25:12).” “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).”
He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
- Psalm 24:5
This verse describes what those referred to in the previous verse will receive. Those with clean hands, a pure heart, who have not set idols in his heart nor sworn deceitfully will receive blessing and righteousness. Furthermore, they will be able to stand in God’s holy place (Psalm 24:3). We can note that it says, they will receive righteousness, and not, they will be righteous. So it can be said that one does not become righteous but rather receive righteousness. Without the righteousness of God, we cannot stand in the holy place of God - that is our goal, is it not? So how can we receive this righteousness? “And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Philippians 3:9).” This righteousness of God can only be received through faith - a willingness to trust and submit to the way of the Lord. Thus, we can learn that obtaining righteousness comes through a path prescribed by God. If we follow that path faithfully, we can receive His righteousness. Sometimes, however, humans want to go their own way. They think they know a better, smarter way. Truth is, we cannot be righteous on our own through our own efforts. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3).” Following their own way leads only to a human righteousness but that is not what we seek. What good is human righteousness? It can only lead us to stand in the place of humans when what we seek is to stand in the holy place of God. Like it says in this verse from Romans, we need to learn to submit to the righteousness of God. This is to submit to His way, His procedures, His Words. When we think we know better than God, we have already fallen into the pursuit of human righteousness, which can lead us nowhere. If we desire the righteousness of God, let us submit to the approach already prescribed by God. Have faith in the ways of God. Then, we will be able to “ascend into the hill of the LORD” and “stand in His holy place (Psalm 24:3).”
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
- Psalm 23:1
Psalm 23 is a very well known psalm. Many people can even recite it by heart. But how many can truly say that they have experienced in their lives what is depicted in this psalm? This first verse of the psalm is so simple yet it is quite meaningful. If we allow the Lord to be our shepherd, we will have no want. Simply put, He will take care of us. “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing (Psalm 34:10)” In order for Him to be our shepherd, we must first seek Him. Then we need to be able to trust, rely, and submit to Him as sheep to a shepherd. But, often, this is not what we want to do. Sometimes, we don’t dare let go of our burdens and worries. Instead, we worry even more. It is as if the more we worry, the better things will be resolved. For some reason, humans love to worry about even the most insignificant of matters. Jesus said, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span (Luke 12:25)?” Worrying doesn’t lessen or solve any problems; it only puts us in an anxious and agitated state of mind. It is important to learn to let go. We should learn to let ourselves go from the strangulation of worries. True belief in God is to truly trust in Him. Let Him be our Shepherd. Let Him lead us. Let Him provide for us. Then we can surely experience what it means to not be in want.