Experiencing the Devotional Readings
To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion.
Dec. 15, 2014 Psalm 136
Doesn’t this Psalm seem to invite and inspire us to continue to remember God’s countless expressions of His love for us, in prayer and song, after reading the last verse? The anonymous Psalmist mentions God’s mercy, kindness, and faithfulness, expressed in His miracles, creation, deliverance of the nation of Israel, providence, and salvation. The Lord has been good to us at Bethany, both individually and collectively, for 200 years. Each of us have been blessed by His grace and mercy, His faithfulness and kindness. Let’s read this Psalm again, and then, in prayer, add our own individual blessings we’ve received from God, adding “His faithful love endures forever” (vv. 1-26 NLT) after each one. Praise the Lord!
Dec. 16, 2014 Psalm 137
This Psalm contains an imprecatory request, wherein the writer is praying for God’s revenge upon an enemy, especially evident in verses 7-9. He laments being in exile in Babylonia, and then longs for the Lord to deal harshly with the Babylonians. Have you ever been or felt “exiled” by God, finding yourself in a wilderness of hopelessness and despair? You long to return to Jerusalem, to get back into the presence of the Lord. God has allowed you to experience this for a reason, known only to Him (and maybe you, too). Prayer, reading God’s word, and seeking fellowship with other believers are some positive ways to deal with this trek into the spiritual desert. We live under the New Covenant, ushered in by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. This covenant is characterized by the grace of God, and that grace extends to our enemies. Jesus said “love your enemies” and do good to them, bless them, and pray for them, treating them as we would want to be treated (Luke 6:27-31). Really radical stuff, but the concept of grace trumps the world’s goal of hate, revenge, and murder. So, the next time we find ourselves in the desert, maybe we should pray for those who’ve mistreated us, and ask God to soften the hearts of terrorists, cruel dictators, and those bent on evil, so that some of His love may enter in. Dear Lord, please help us to love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, and pray for them. In Christ’s holy name, Amen.
Dec. 17, 2014 Psalm 138
God desires a relationship with us. That relationship, from our perspective, is based upon our completely trusting God to guide us in life and saving us through the shed blood of His Son. This foundation of faith and trust allows us to rest in Him, knowing that His will is perfect and His powerful right hand will deliver us and get us through any trial or hardship. David had reached such a point in His life and relationship with God when he wrote this Psalm. One proof of this is expressed in his assurance that “as soon as I pray, You answer me” (v. 3a NLT). This statement is such a wonderful blessing for David, because he knows in his heart that no matter what he prays about and asks God for, he trusts that the Lord will give him His strength to endure and work through any situation. He knows that God is the giver of all blessings, and he accepts whatever God is willing to give him in answer to prayer. David also acknowledges that God “cares for the humble”, and this realization caused him to follow that rule in his own life, as evidenced by writing that “I will not endure conceit and pride” (Psalm 101:5a NLT). Finally, David shares that “the Lord will work out His plans for my life” (v. 8a NLT). He needs no other assurance than that and he is able to rest in the Lord and not worry about how his life will unfold or what will happen to him. May we attain such faith and trust in the Lord, believing He answers our prayers, wants us to care for the humble, and that He will guide us always, so that we, like David, can pray – “Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever” (v. 8b NLT).
Dec. 18, 2014 Psalm 139
Omniscience. Now there’s a word for you. I had to look it up, and discovered that this Psalm is about the omniscience of God – He is all-knowing. David begins and ends this Psalm with that proclamation, that the Lord has examined him and knows everything about him, including his heart. Guess what? God knows everything about you and I, too. UGH! When I think about that, I echo verse 6, that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (NLT). Or, maybe it’s too troubling for me, too unsettling, too convicting. Then I realize that a little conviction from God once in a while is a good thing. Being convicted by the Lord, when the Holy Spirit reminds us that we’ve behaved, in thought, word, and/or deed, contrary to His will and word (possibly sinned), we know that it’s time for us to make a course correction and repent. David also makes it clear that we can’t hide from God, that He formed us in the womb, and that every day of our earthly lives, even what we do and say, are already known to God beforehand. So….since God is omniscient, we can confidently pray, as David did – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (v. 23-24 NLT). In Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.
Dec. 19, 2014 Psalm 140
Evil, wicked, and proud people, lovers of violence and dishonesty – the world is full of them. What David is describing a few thousand years ago is still with us today. He cried out to the Lord to rescue and protect him from his enemies, who were really enemies of God, living in total opposition to His will and commandments. David wrote in Psalm 51 that he (and we) sin against the Lord and Him alone, doing what is evil in His sight (v. 4). However, the Bible tells us that God will finally and decisively triumph over evil and destroy His enemies. In Psalm 110:4, God the Father tells His Son to “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (NIV). In Revelation, chapter 18, we’re told that “Babylon”, representing evil and everything that opposes God, is fallen (v.1). In verse 5, we read that “her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God remembers her evil deeds” (NLT). Then, in verse 8b, “She will be completely consumed by fire, for the Lord God who judges her is mighty” (NLT). Revelation 19:2a tells us that God “has punished the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality” (NLT). Revelation 20:10 assures us that Satan, the enemy of our souls, will be thrown into Hell, and will be tormented forever and ever. In the meantime, the righteous (the redeemed – us!) praise God’s name and will live in His presence! Praise the Lord for His might and power, for His mercy and compassion, for His providence and salvation, and for His ultimate defeat of sin and evil!
Dec. 20, 2014 Psalm 141
This Psalm expresses three important spiritual points for all of us. First, our prayers offered up to the Lord are accepted by Him as fragrant incense. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes incense, as used in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple, as symbolizing “the prayers of the Hebrew people, which were considered a pleasant aroma offered to God” (page 597). In John’s vision of the slain Lamb in Revelation, chapter 5, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders in Heaven, upon seeing the Lamb take the little scroll from Him who sat on the throne, fell down in worship. Each one held “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (v. 8 NIV). Second, we can ask the Lord to guard our lips, so that we speak in love and mercy, without evil intent. Why ask this of God? We find the answer in James, chapter 3 – the tongue makes great boasts (v. 5); it’s a fire, corrupting the whole person (v. 6); and it can’t be tamed and is a restless evil (v. 8). Sounds like a job for the Holy Spirit – tongue-tamer! Finally, words of counseling wisdom from a godly brother or sister (a nice way of saying spiritually healthy criticism) should be welcomed by us! Words like these from another believer are prompted by the Holy Spirit, and are given to us for our benefit, to help us walk closer to God and bear a stronger witness for Him. Let’s thank God for these nuggets of gold from His holy word, and ask him to help us take them to heart and live by them.