Oh joy! – Psalm 47

I went for a walk in our local park the other day. The trees were just turning their autumn golden-brown and russet colours. The sun was shining, reflecting in the lake; the sky was bright blue, and the air unseasonably warm, with a gentle fresh breeze. All was well. At times like that, it’s natural to feel praises welling up within you. Worship is easy. God is good!

Psalm 47 has that sort of feeling. The psalmist was enjoying life, and praises rolled off his tongue. It was a great moment.

Singing and praising are good for us. They release endorphins – the ‘feel-good’ chemicals into our brain, as well as increasing our oxygen levels. It’s not about how it sounds, but about how it feels. Never tell yourself you can’t sing – it’s an order!

There are plenty of times in life when it’s hard to praise, when we have to discipline ourselves to rejoice, ‘because the bible tells us to’. Isn’t it great when you get those moments of sheer joy, when praise springs forth unbidden, and worship is the most natural thing in the world? Cherish those times, etch them on your memory, and use them as a resource to help you continue worshipping when the going gets tough.

Joy is contagious. Read this psalm and catch some for yourself!

Psalm 47

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Be still – Psalm 46

Psalm 46:1-10Psalm 46:11

Umbrellas are great – little roofs you can take in you pocket, and whip out as needed. Instant shelter! But we’ve all recently seen the video footage of an impending tsunami, with palpable fear etched on each face, panic rising as the wave approaches, the screen rolls and blanks out… And we’ve seen the devastation. Not even the strongest of buildings are safe in such times. Umbrellas would be farcical.

This is the sort of devastation Psalm 46 is taking about. It might be physical, like the tsunami. Or it could be a personal disaster, when life crumbles, and nothing will ever be the same again – bereavement, diagnosis, redundancy, relationship break-up… How can you get by without knowing there is a shelter in these times? Not some flimsy fold-up umbrella, but a rock-solid, tsunami-proof person who will protect. Never failing; always there.

There is a stark contrast in verse 4, with the beautiful, refreshing waters of the river that runs through ‘the city of God’. This is a constantly-flowing water course, steady and reliable. Right in the place where God dwells. It reminded me of John 4:14 – “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” My heart, the place where God dwells. I can trust that God will be my help, my ever-present fortress. I can ‘be still and know He is God’.

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Fit for a king – Psalm 45

Oh boy! Somebody way too fat is looking back at me from my mirror. Not pretty. Uggggh!

Psalm 45 is understood to be a prophetic description of the marriage of Christ, to his resplendent bride. What an awesome description of the majestic king, doing battle for righteousness, but dressed and ready now to meet his beloved, precious, chosen bride.

Who is this beautiful bride? The Church. AKA you and me. All those who have accepted his wonderful offer of salvation, and have surrendered to the King of kings. What a magnificent majestic, loving husband!

But do you recognise yourself in the description in verses 10-15 of the bride? (And this is gender irrelevant.) Would the king be ‘enthralled by your beauty’? Do you feel ‘glorious’? It’s not about the mirror image. You, child of God, have been chosen.

Reflect for a moment how that feels. Re-read the section, and relish the honour he has bestowed on you.

Now, most of us feel undeserving, ugly, unworthy. That’s because we were. But not now. Jesus has paid the price, and done all that is needed to make us worthy, to make us beautiful. We scrub up well!

God has great faith in you. He has chosen you and believes in you. Is there anything you can’t accomplish that he gives you to do? What a future – and it starts now.

Psalm 45:1-7Psalm 45:7-17

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A song of two seasons – Psalm 44

Many years ago, we ran a small corner shop. As with most businesses, it was a very tight budget to start off with. The first year, however, was a year of answered prayer.  We’d need money to meet a bill by a set time, we’d pray, and the customers would flock in, spending enough for our needs to be met. Then suddenly at the end of that year, it stopped happening, and it was a real struggle to keep the cash flow going. We felt God was asking us whether we would still love and trust him if the miracles stopped happening – were we seeking his face, or just his hand? But after a while, God introduced us to better ways to run our business, and we began to operate more effectively. Good eh?

My life seems to have gone in seasons – some with  plenty, and some with plenty of bills! And this is what I’m seeing in Psalm 44. Verses 1-8 is a joyful account of the stories of his forefathers –  battles wonderfully won, the nation brought into security, a loving Father God caring for his children. Then verse 9 onwards tells the story of the struggles the writer was facing in his time. Rejection, humiliation, defeat: had God forgotten them? Yet he still believed God’s love is unfailing, and continued to call on him for help.

It strikes me, that the forefathers, living through those  victorious days, did not have so glossy a view of them. Up close, they saw the privations of the wilderness, the losses incurred in the battles (albeit won), the struggles to trust God through each sweaty assault, the in-fighting, the rebellions, the anxiety, the weariness… The truth is, we have not been promised easy lives, and everyone has their own struggles to work through, however glossy their lives look to others. The point is, that God’s love is unfailing, and even though it may take time, he will work it through in the end. He is thoroughly trustworthy.

The other thing that I love in this psalm, is v3. God’s face lights up, not because we win victories, but when we trust him through those struggles. Because he loves us.

Psalm 44:1-10 Psalm 44:11-23 Psalm 44:23-26

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God can handle it – Psalm 43

The frantically busy road forces you down the underpass to cross under. It’s dark, dank and chilly, and you can hear your heels echoing around the hard walls of the passageway. Out of the shadows a rough-looking guy – no, two, emerge, poising themselves threateningly in your path…This is not where you want to be. Alone, frightened, vulnerable.

David was somewhere like that when he wrote Psalm 43. Living in a place surrounded by enemies, under constant threat, he felt abandoned and rejected by man and God, and a very long way from the presence of God.

In that moment, he prayed for light and truth to guide him back to God. At the time David could not know that God would bring it round, that he would become king, bring in a golden age, father many children and die peacefully in his own bed ‘old and full of years.’. God honoured that prayer, but David could not know that then, in that dark time.

Nevertheless, David chose to believe it, and put his trust in God. Again, as in the previous psalm, he challenged himself to put away fear and hope in God. A good choice. For otherwise, the fear itself would have defeated him: the enemies redundant, their work accomplished for them.

When we find ourselves out of our depth, in a place we don’t feel we belong, however difficult the situation, we need to repeat to ourselves that same challenge:  Why am I fretting? God can handle this. I’m going to praise him anyway, whatever happens.

It’s OK. God can handle it.

Psalm 43

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Choose your mood – Psalm 42

There must be something a bit perverse in the human psyche, that makes us enjoy feeling sorry for ourselves. There’s nothing quite like a good ol’ pity party! David had good reason. He was facing exile from his own beloved country, and Psalm 42 traces his journey through border country and far away from his beloved Jerusalem, and the celebrations at the house of God. Now that would be just a memory.

Mid wallow, he suddenly became aware of what he was doing. David, who had defeated lions and bears, who’d taken on and slaughtered the giant Goliath, who’d won countless battles in the name of the Lord, realised he’d been shackled by his own toxic thought patterns. “Why are you so downcast, O my soul?”  It took fresh determination to choose to silence his agonisings and to put his hope in God.

Grief is weird stuff, and when we have lost someone or something precious, it does overtake us at times. We do have to process and work through it; there are no short-cuts. Self-pity is something else though – all that does is add to our problems. And the good news is, we don’t have to put up with it – just don’t harbour it! Like all habits, it can be hard to break; and like David, we sometimes need a wake-up call to challenge ourselves and choose our mood.

I’m trading my sorrows
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord (Matt Redman)

Psalm 42:1-8Psalm 42:8-11

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The blessed fleas – Psalm 41

You’ll probably be familiar with the rhyme which reminds us that the bigger we are, the bigger the irritations in life.

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum…
(Augustus De Morgan)

Well I think Psalm 41 is just the opposite! When we take the time and trouble to bless and help those weaker than ourselves, then God will bless and help us. More like this…

Weaker folk have stronger folk
who’ve got their backs to bless ’em

And stronger folk have Almighty God
to bless, ad infinitum.

David was troubled by his enemies, but he knew God had got his back; and the more he did right in concerning himself with those who needed his help, the more he could trust God to look after him.

And not only was he himself blessed, he was free to enjoy blessing God. Ad infinitum.

So what does it take to enjoy the privilege of God’s favour? Simply this – having regard for the weak. Have you done anything this week that puts you in that enviable position?

Psalm 41:1-2 Psalm 41:3-13

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