Christianity 201

November 4, 2017

The Lord Will Rescue His Servants

Today, our second visit with David Kitz who writes at I Love the Psalms. Recently he spent two days in Psalm 51, so if you’re familiar with David’s confessional Psalm and would like to read more about it, click either the title below or the mention of his blog in the previous sentence and look for the October 31 and November 1 readings. Today we’re in Psalm 34.

A Trouble Free Life?

Reading:  Psalm 34

(Verses 19-22)
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the L
ORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The L
ORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned
(NIV).

Reflection
This final portion of Psalm 34 reflects David’s faith in a God who saves. He began this psalm with praise because he experienced the saving power of God. Now David states that the LORD delivers, protects and rescues. But for these words to be meaningful, the LORD must deliver, protect and rescue from various forms of trouble and adversity. There is no rescue if there is no danger. There is no deliverance if there is no oppression.

If you choose to follow the LORD, you are not guaranteed a trouble-free life. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Many of us believe that if we do our best to lead a good life, following the commandments as found in the Bible, God will exempt us from hardship and trouble. But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did not have a trouble-free life. Why should we expect our lives to be trouble free? God has not promised me a trouble-free life; He has promised to be with me when trouble and adversity comes.

About three years ago a close friend of mine suffered a debilitating stroke. He lost his position as a teacher, his finances took a hit and he struggled mightily to get his mobility back. In an instant every movement became much more difficult for him—every step a monumental effort. Last week he made a startling confession. He said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t return to my pre-stroke days. God has drawn me so much closer to Himself through this. I wouldn’t wish this on any man. But God has changed me and used me in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible unless this happened.”

All of us desperately try to avoid the furnace of affliction. It’s too hard—too unpleasant—full of things we cannot bear. But God meets us there. He bears us up on eagle’s wings. When our resources and abilities run out, He takes over. He becomes our help and our deliverer in ways we cannot fathom. God is present in times of trouble.

His promises are tried, tested and true: The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Response: Heavenly Father, I can’t always see what is genuinely in my best interest, especially when that involves adversity. Be my sure help and protection in troubled times. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Your Turn: Has God met with you in a time of trouble? Do you know Him as your strength and rescuer in times of hardship and difficulty?


 

October 13, 2016

Psalm 100: A Call to All to Give Thanks

As we mentioned on Saturday, this was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Since Clarke Dixon’s regular contributions here are based on his sermons of the previous week, we have Thanksgiving as today’s theme, which for most of readers, comes a few weeks early.

by Clarke Dixon

Around the table at Thanksgiving many people have a tradition of saying what they are thankful for. I am always thankful that my son, who arrived on a Thanksgiving weekend twelve years ago, arrived safely. Especially so since he arrived at the hospital before the doctor who was on call and methinks sitting down to a Turkey dinner at the time. But while it may be easy coming up with things to be thankful for, how many have really thought about whom they are giving thanks to? The what of Thanksgiving happens naturally. The to whom and why gets a bit muddy for some. It is not muddy for the Psalmist in Psalm 100 who has a clear sense of gratitude; what for, to whom, and why. This will become clear to us as we take a look:

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Some things to note about the Psalmist’s call to Thanksgiving:

The call to thanksgiving is a call to know the LORD. 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 100:1 emphasis mine)

The Psalm begins with a call to make a joyful noise, not to just any lord, but the LORD. Many of our translations use LORD all in capitals in place of the actual name of God. There is a long story about this but suffice it to say here that we have a call to give thanks to The One Creator God Who has revealed Himself as recorded in the Bible. Here we have not some nebulous concept of a god that can never be known, but a very specific and personal God who can be known and has made Himself known. The Psalmist is very clear on to whom thanksgiving is due, the One God Who has made Himself known.

Further, the Psalmist is clear on some specifics that we can know about the LORD:

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalms 100:3)

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:5)

The call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the LORD.

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing. (Psalms 100:1-2 emphasis mine)

These should not be taken as commands so much as an affirmation of what comes naturally. People naturally respond to really good news with joy, noise, and singing. Even those who cannot carry a tune cannot contain their enthusiasm. When we know the LORD properly, we will understand that the opportunity of being in relationship with Him is a fantastic opportunity. We will understand how amazing a thing it is to enjoy God’s presence. A church I once pastored could joyfully claim that a former Prime Minister of our nation was once a regular attender. Yet that fact pales in comparison to having the King of Glory in attendance. If there is joy lacking in the church services across our nation, perhaps it has less to do with getting a handle on worship style and more to do with getting a handle on how utterly fantastic a thing it is to be in the presence of the LORD.

Since I brought up worship style let us recognize too, that the call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the Lord rather than a call to enjoy ourselves. When we put the emphasis of church worship on making sure people enjoy themselves, we begin to emphasize perfection in performance. If the church I pastor suddenly put an emphasis on excellence in performance I would soon find myself out of work. When worship is more about joy in the Lord than enjoyment of oneself, our experience of worship will be decided long before the church service begins.

The call to thanksgiving is a call to praise the LORD.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name. (Psalms 100:4 emphasis mine)

Sometimes a skeptic will ask if the Lord is so insecure that he needs our praise. This is to completely misunderstand praise. Praise is not something God needs, nor is it something that must be commanded, but is something we do quite naturally. Does the mother or father of a child need to be instructed to praise him or her when they take their first steps? Momentous occasions call for momentous praise. To give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness is a momentous occasion.

The call to thanksgiving is a call that goes out to everyone, everywhere.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalms 100:1 emphasis mine)

We don’t normally think of God’s people in the Old Testament as being a missionary people. But the Psalmist is, calling everyone, everywhere to give thanks to the LORD. People sometimes mistakingly think that God changes direction between the Old and New Testaments. He does not change directions, but goes further along the same direction, revealing Himself and His goodness more fully and driving the point home that He is love. We know from the Old Testament that all people, everywhere owe a debt of thanks to the LORD for life itself. We know from the New Testament that all people, everywhere have the opportunity to experience eternal life in Christ.

Do we have the confidence as Christians to know that calling everyone, everywhere  to thanksgiving is the right thing to do? Or do we hide behind a philosophy of faith as a private and personal thing? God did not keep the fact that He is Creator private. He has not hidden His goodness. He did not hide behind a tree, but bore the cross publicly. He did not roll the stone back across the tomb to hide the fact of a missing body. Either God is to be thanked or not. Either by everyone, if it is true, or by no one, if it is not. The Psalmist knew what was what and was not shy about issuing a call to thanksgiving. Are we?


All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Originally posted at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

May 9, 2016

Psalms: The Missing Jewel in the Modern Church

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

While certain types of prayer and praise rate high with some, I believe that God is happy just to have us commune with him. That includes expressing our angst, our frustrations, our deep longings.

Today’s post includes some excerpts from an article by worship songwriter Graham Kendrick. For a better experience of these thoughts, you are encouraged to click the title below. The site is also a wealth of songs Graham has written.

Psalms – The missing Jewel of the Worshipping Church?

graham kendrickIt was several decades ago that A. W. Tozer described worship as the ‘missing jewel of the evangelical church’. It was one of the messages that helped to fuel an embryonic worship movement that has since transformed the way millions worship across the world. I hope the late great man will forgive me for adapting his words for today to read: Psalms – the missing jewel of the worshipping church.

I have read them regularly, composed songs from them, and spontaneously sung them straight from the page for many years, but even so I think I am only just beginning to wake up to their immense power and significance. I love to open up a good commentary and learn about them from a scholar, but something remarkable starts to happen when I open up my mouth and wrap my lips, tongue and heart around the words and pray them aloud…

…One of the strongest arguments for using the Psalms is both simple and profound – it was what Jesus did. The Psalms were Jesus’ prayer book, songbook and meditation manual, and if he needed them how much more do we? …

Kendrick then explains the absence of The Psalms as owing to the current state of worship:

The vital place of the psalms to our spiritual ancestors is beyond question, so why are they sidelined today? There are many historical reasons I am sure, but one very contemporary one is that our media-intensive culture moulds us as spectators rather than participants, looking to screens, stages and platforms to be ‘done to’ and spoon-fed experience rather than learning how to nourish our own spiritual lives. In this atmosphere many Christians have become ‘event-dependant’ and have little idea how to sustain themselves between ‘fixes’. Those who have the job of providing the ‘spectacle’ week by week become exhausted under the demands.

There are many songs today that give us an excellent language for expressing our personal love and thanks to God but the Psalms also give us a language for anger, for frustration that the world is not as it should be, for protesting against injustice and for lamenting the tragedies that we see around us, and a language of hope for the future. We need to rediscover some of this language in our worship today – that allows the Christian community to grieve, protest, lament, and anticipate God’s final victory…

But then he suggests one practical way we can experience the Psalms. In this section he quotes Eugene Peterson who references Isaiah 31; the word usage in the first section is important here:

This is what the Lord says to me:

“As a lion growls,
    a great lion over its prey—
and though a whole band of shepherds
    is called together against it,
it is not frightened by their shouts
    or disturbed by their clamor—
so the Lord Almighty will come down
    to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.

Kendrick writes:

How do we pray the psalms? One of the best ways is simply to read them out loud, but not in a detached, cerebral way. The book of Psalms begins with a promise that the person who meditates in the law of the Lord is like ‘a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.’ That is quite a promise. Meditation sounds like a purely mental activity, but according to Eugene Peterson:

“Meditate [hagah] is a bodily action; it involves murmuring and mumbling words, taking a kind of physical pleasure in making the sounds of the words, getting the feel of the meaning as the syllables are shaped by larynx and tongue and lips. Isaiah uses this word ‘meditate‘ for the sounds that a lion makes over its prey [Isaiah 31:4].” [Eugene Peterson, Answering God]

The Psalms spring to life when we engage with them physically – try it!

Again this is about half of the article; click the title to see it all.

Something more to think about:

Graham Kendrick concludes the full article with this observation:

Jonah’s Psalm-like prayer in the belly of the whale [Jonah 2:2-9] was not original, its component parts can be traced back to at least 10 sources in the Psalms. He had been to ‘Psalm-school’, worked out at ‘Psalm-gym’ and so in a moment of desperation, he had a vocabulary of prayer to draw upon.

 

January 8, 2015

The Longed-For Leader

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We had already formatted yesterday’s archived devotional by Clarke Dixon when this newer one appeared online, so with his permission, we’re giving you Clarke two days in a row!  Have your Bibles open to Psalm 72 or click the link in the first paragraph.

What a Really Great Ruler Really Looks Like

A longed-for leader devotional Bible studyWhether we think of heads of state, or heads of families it seems so many rulers are prone to questionable, even unconscionable, decisions. What does a really great ruler really look like? Psalm 72 points the way (I encourage you to read it by clicking the link). There are some things to note:

First, this psalm is a prayer. And so we are reminded to pray for people in authority. We may hear of decisions made by dictators and elected officials, mums and dads, and shake our heads in disgust. But do we bow our heads in prayer for them? What a great change there can be for many people when there is godly change in the life and thinking of a person in authority. And if you and I stand in places of authority, we stand in the need of prayer.

Second, what is the key word of this prayer? Let us consider the first two verses:

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. Psalm 72:1-2 NRSV

While justice and righteousness are important words, there is one word in the first two verses that shows up more often: ‘Your.’ Here is a plea for a ruler not to rule with their own sense of justice and righteousness, but to rule with God’s. Also, we are directed to the think of the people we have authority over not as ‘our’ people, but God’s. Rulers may think they are tops, but they are really stewards accountable to a higher authority. I might be pleased with how my young boys are becoming young men. But is God? They are His, my leadership in their lives needs to please God, not me. And it needs to be according to God’s standards, not mine. Notice too, that the call is made for the authorities to take special notice of the poor. Yes they are God’s too, and how they are treated will not go unnoticed.

Third. What rulers throughout history have shown themselves to be answers to this prayer? Sadly, far too many have fallen far too short of a godly rule. This is true within nations and within families. But there is one who fits this prayer precisely, Jesus the Messiah.

In the Christmas story, the magi serve a theological purpose, they point to Jesus as being the ruler this Psalm longs for. Though not precise in the details, the nations have arrived bearing gifts:

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. Psalm 72:10-11 NRSV
11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 NRSV

The book of Revelation paints a picture of the ruler this Psalm longs for. The king’s reign is eternal. The king reigns with justice and righteousness. The reign of the king is good news for the oppressed. The kingdom is secure. People blossom. These are things common to the king longed for in Psalm 72 and the King of kings and Lord of lords revealed in Revelation.

Jesus points to himself as the one who fulfills the longing of this prayer. He describes himself as the good shepherd. He is the good shepherd who loves the sheep, not like the bad shepherd, Herod, who killed off many young boys in an effort to rid the world of Jesus. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves the sheep, not like the bad shepherds, the religious leaders, who would seek his life. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves the sheep, not like the bad shepherd, Pilate, who would authorize his death. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves people, who helps people. The psalm longs for a king who

…delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. Psalm 72:12-14 NRSV

So precious is our blood in His sight that He shed His own blood to help us in our greatest need. All our earthly needs come and go, but our need for salvation from the sin that separates us from God is something we carry into eternity, unless of course there is an authority that can help. In Jesus there is.

If you are a person in authority, are you an answer to this prayer? Whether you are a person in authority or not, do you know the One who is the greatest answer to this prayer?

July 19, 2014

Repetition in Scripture: Poetry or Emphasis?

Case for the PsalmsI am currently working my way devotionally through N. T. Wright’s second-newest book, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential. Today I looked back at a section in the introduction that has been sticking with me:

The Psalms rely for their effect on the way they set out the main themes. They say something from one angle and then repeat it from a different angle.

NRSV Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and all their host by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,

Psalm 139:3 You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even when this doesn’t happen line by line, it often happens between different sections of a psalm or in the balance of the collection, or a part of it, as a whole.

The important point here is that some of the most important things we want to say remain just a little beyond even our best words. The first sentence is a signpost to the deep reality, the second a signpost from a slightly different place. The reader is invited to follow both and to see the larger, unspoken truth looming up behind. This means that only can the effect be maintained in translation, but the effect itself is one of the deepest things the Psalms are doing, making it clear that the best human words point beyond themselves to realities that transcend even high poetic description.

But then, Wright makes another observation — in parenthesis — that really got me thinking:

(Something similar is achieved elsewhere in the Bible — for instance in the provision in Genesis for two creation stories, offering two picture-language images for a reality that lies beyond either.)

Let’s look at that:

NIV Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams[b] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

  1. Genesis 2:5 Or land; also in verse 6
  2. Genesis 2:6 Or mist
  3. Genesis 2:7 The Hebrew for man (adam) sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for ground (adamah); it is also the name Adam (see verse 20).

One thing I have been taught from my youth is that where the scripture provides emphasis, the emphasis is there for a reason. It can happen within a single phrase. The angels don’t cry “holy;” they cry “holy, holy, holy.”  (Another author has more examples in this list.)

While I have no particular Bible-and-science agenda here, I think it is interesting that in today’s climate of creation controversy and a divided Christian community on the subject of creation — old earth creation, new earth creation, theistic evolution, etc. — that God would choose that the story should appear twice. What are we not to miss?

Sometimes the Bible seems to sanction repetition and sometimes it does not. We’re told in the introduction to The Lord’s Prayer not to keep repeating the same prayers over and over again, but in a Catholic article, written to defend the use of the rosary, the author appeals to the Psalms, stating,

Take Psalm 119… It is the longest psalm in the Bible, having 176 verses. On the whole, the psalm is a persistent repetition of the main theme, that is, of the excellence of keeping the law of God. It makes an excellent meditation and prayer of repetition — like the rosary — beautiful, pious, and thoroughly biblical.

(The article does make some points worth considering, though to many Evangelicals, the chanting of the Hail Mary prayer seems more pagan than Christian.)

Another author breaks down the variants of repetition we encounter in an article on Puritan Hermeneutics:

…Today I am typing out my notes from John Arrowsmith’s exposition of John 1:1-18.  It is entitled, ” Theanthropos, God made Man.”  I came across a very nice little hermeneutical discussion on what repetition signifies in Scripture.  In sum, Arrowsmith writes:

1.         In prayer repetition serves to express fervency and earnestness. Matthew 26:44

2.         In prophecies repetition serves to note the certainty of them.  Genesis 41:22

3.         In threats repetition indicates unavoidableness and, perhaps, suddenness.  Ezekiel 21:27

4.         In precepts repetition serves to note a necessity in performing them.  Psalm 47:6

5.         In truths repetition serves to show the necessity of believing them and of knowing them.  John 3:3, 5, 17

My point today is that when we encounter repetition in scripture it’s important not to simply say, “at this point the writing has moved into a poetic form;” but rather to say, “this repetition is for a reason, maybe God is trying to tell me something!

 

 

 

January 5, 2014

Why, Exactly, Our God is Great

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010514

David Kenney has embarked on an ambitious project on his blog this year… I’ll let him describe it at this post, Who is in Control?

Ok, so I am going to do something new this year. I think a thing that pastors run into every Sunday is the dreaded blank page. “What am I going to preach on next week? Next month? Next Christmas?” I mean sure, we all have the same source material, and there is certainly no shortage of things to talk about – but we all like to feel motivated, right? Perhaps inspired?

Well, like most of you I am determined to read my bible more in 2014 and so as I read through the scriptures each day, my goal is to use my blog to journal a sermon each and every day. Yep the goal here (if all goes according to plan) is to write a sermon “inspiration” each day and end the year with 365 sermons ready for 2015.

Today’s Inspiration:

Psalm 104:27-31

All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord endure forever.

You know the song “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin? Most of the lines in that song come from Psalm 104.  The entire song is about how “great” God is, right? But the “great thing” about Psalm 104 is, the author actually tells you “WHY” God is so great – answer, because He’s in control.

Let’s face it a lot of people have an opinion of God, who he is, how he operates and how he gives out good points and bad points. And I think there are a lot of people who think that God just created the world and then walked away. “God lives in the clouds” and we live down here to fend for ourselves.

But Psalm 104 goes to terrific lengths to show how much God is involved in the life of the Earth. In fact, the author goes so far as to say that when God hides his face, creation is “terrified.”

I have a brand new son and he’s barely a few months old. He’s going through that annoying stage where we can’t put him down for two seconds. He knows we’re in the room, he can see us – we’re even still talking to him, but it doesn’t matter. He wants to be held. He wants to feel secure. He wants us to be in control. Right now, that’s the only way that he feels comfortable and safe.

What a total flip to how you and I live our lives. We like our independence, in fact, we’d probably like it better if God would “look the other way” from time to time. Then we could have moments to ourselves, then we could get away with stealing a cookie now and then. For some reason we think that life would be better if God were “on a cloud” somewhere.

But look at what the author says, the world is…dependent on God… for it’s survival. You know we’d like to think that we’re in charge, that we heal diseases, or that we save the rain forests and endangered species. We’d like to think that we’re out there saving the day, but God is the one who feeds the animals, verse 13 says God sends the rain, verses 14 & 15 say that God spins the circle of life and verses 19 & 20 say that he also spins the planets.

verses 32 & 33 say

He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they pour out smoke. I will sing to the Lord all my life

The irony is we treat God like a prying parent. God’s always reading our diary. But here the author talks about how involved God is and THAT is why he sings. He rejoices because God is so apart of his life. The author worships the God who plants the trees and gushes the rivers.

You see, my life isn’t miserable when God is watching, my life is miserable when I don’t want it to be watched. My problem isn’t an involved God, my problem is I don’t want God’s involvement. But the truth is, I should be welcoming God in more, sharing with him more, walking hand and hand with him more – because THAT’S when the songs come on strong.

In verse 35 the author closes with a wish, May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more.” You know what I think that means? That means if we could just all invite God in – if he could just become more involved and more a part of each of our lives- well… then… sin would disappear.

It’s true.

Do you know why sin is still around?

Because we want it around.

The truth is we’re all broken people who struggle with the question; “who is in control?” And when the answer is “we are” that’s when sin is born.

Lord help me to release control. Help me to depend on your love and grace for all of my needs – and may I invite you in each day of my life so that one day I can spin and dance in a world where sin has vanished.

February 5, 2013

Meditating on God’s Divine Providence and Love: Psalm 31

A completely different format today that I hope you will fully engage with. It certainly fits our situation, and I suspect it does for many of you. This was found at the blog of Tim Chester where, as always, you’re encouraged to read it at source.


In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,

a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

  • From what do you need ‘rescue’ and ‘refuge’?
  • What’s the ‘trap’ in which you could fall? In other words, what temptation comes with your circumstances?
  • Highlight each time the Psalmist says ‘refuge’, ‘rock’ and ‘fortress’. How is God a refuge for you in the midst of your current problems?

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

  • What makes the Psalmist glad? How might these truths comfort you?
  • What does it mean for God to put you in a ‘spacious place’ in the midst of your current problems?

9. Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak …

  • How do your current problems make you feel?
  • Do you find it helpful to express those emotions before God?

14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies;
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you …

  • ‘My times are in your hands.’ ‘Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.’ (Charles Spurgeon) Do you believe this? How does it comfort you?
  • How does God’s face shine on you in the midst of your problems? In other words, how is God being good to you?

19. How great is your goodness,
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

  • God has great goodness stored up for you. Compare the hope you have in Christ with what you think you lack in life.
  • How do you think of God ‘sheltering you’ and ‘hiding you’?

21 Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.

  • What comfort has the Psalmist given to those who feel abandoned by God?
  • Who could you tell how God has helped you? Who could you encourage to be strong, take heart and hope in the LORD?

Making Psalm 31 Your Own

O LORD, I take refuge in you from ____________.
Don’t let me be ashamed by my problems.
Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Free me from the temptation to ___________.
I put myself in your hands for you are my refuge.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you see my  ___________.
and you know the anguish of my soul.
When I feel trapped by my circumstances
lead me into a spacious place.

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in distress.
Both my body and soul feel weak with sorrow.
But I trust in you for you are my Father.
My times are in your hands.
My problem ___________ is in your hands.
Let your face shine on me.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for me.
It’s much greater than  ___________.
In the shelter of your presence
you keep me safe me from  ___________.

Praise the LORD, for he shows his wonderful love to me
when I am besieged by  ___________.
In my alarm I said, “God has abandoned me.”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy.

Love the LORD for he protects his people.
Be strong, take heart, hope in the LORD.