January 8 Read Psalms 42 and 43
According to my study Bible, Psalms 42 and 43 should go together. The section is split into three stanzas, with the command “Hope thou in God” separating each one. The first stanza talks about how the trials of life cause the child of God to yearn after his heavenly Father. The second stanza brings out the idea that although we sometimes feel forsaken as our enemies chase and ridicule us, our God will never abandon us. The third stanza, which is Psalm 43, calls upon God to free us from our enemies and to judge them for their wickedness. The refrain between each of these stanzas is very comforting. It is a great reminder to us that there is no reason to despair. God is on our side, and nothing can triumph over us. Sing or pray Psalter #115.
January 9 Read Psalm 42
This chapter begins by talking about a deer that is very thirsty because she is being chased by the hunter. As is brought out here, our soul is in very much the same situation. We are constantly being hunted by the devil, his demons, and our own sinful nature. This hunt wearies us, not only because of the running required, but because our pursuers are mocking us all the way. We need water, living water. That water gives us the strength we need to continue the fight for the short time we are here on this earth. We find that water when we join in worship with our fellow saints.
Psalm 73 presents a similar idea. Here Asaph is depressed when he sees the earthly prosperity of the wicked, “Until [he] went into the sanctuary of God; then understood [he] their end.” Once we are refreshed with this water, we no longer fear what man can do unto us. Sing or pray Psalter #116.
January 10 Read Micah 7:1–7
The refrain of Psalms 42 and 43 is “Hope thou in God”. In spite of the trials of this life or the ridicule of our enemies, like David, we must “hope in God”. To hope means “to stay, tarry, trust, wait.” The prophet Micah also saw the importance of waiting on the Lord. In Micah 7, he bemoans the sad state of the land that he must live in. In verses 1 and 2 he says that good men are as hard to find as the “first-ripe fruit” when harvest is over. And not only are the people evil, but those with authority, the judges and magistrates, promote the evil and even encourage it (vv. 3, 4). Micah continues in verses 5 and 6 to lament that there is no one to trust. Husbands couldn’t even trust their wives—“keep the doors of the mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.” It was a time of great wickedness, much like today. Yet with Micah and David we can say, “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7) Hope thou in God! Sing or pray Psalter #327.
January 11 Read Acts 16:25–40
David assures himself in Psalm 42:8, “Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness”. David expects that this is where his deliverance will come from. The fact that God commands his loving-kindness is comforting. Not only is it free (we can do nothing to earn it), but he makes us hear it. Like Jesus commanded the water to be still, God commands his loving-kindness upon us.
According to Matthew Henry, “The mercies we receive in the day we ought to return thanks for at night; when others are sleeping we should be praising God.” This point is also brought out in Psalm 119:62, where it says, “At midnight I will rise and give thanks unto thee.” We read of Paul and Silas doing this when they were in prison (Acts 16:25). God will put those songs in our heart. Job 35:10: “But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night.” Before you sleep, praise God for the loving-kindness that he has commanded upon you. Sing or pray Psalter #117.
January 12 Read Psalm 43
David turns to his judge. God, our judge, is the only one who is able to and will defend David and us against our enemies. It is not known who the “deceitful and unjust man” of verse 1 is, but whether it is Saul or Absalom, David needs help from the “God of his strength.” Without God, David and we have no strength. Although there are many reasons why God might “cast us off,” he has promised NEVER to do so. “For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off” (Ps. 37:28). David prays that God will light his way to the “holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.” David’s longing to be away from the oppression of man leads him to sigh more intensely for communion with God. “Let us pray earnestly, that the Lord will send forth the truth of his word, and the light of his Spirit, to guide us into the way of holiness, peace, and salvation” (Henry). Sing or pray Psalter #120.
January 13 Read Psalm 44
Psalm 42 begins the second section of the book of Psalms. It is the section concerning Israel as a nation, and Psalm 44 falls perfectly under that heading. This psalm first speaks of Israel’s glorious past, focusing on their conquest of the land of Canaan and how all these triumphs were because of God’s might and power. However, times have changed and now it seems as if God has cast them away, leaving them humiliated before their enemies. Why God has apparently forgotten them is a mystery to them, and they plead with him to save them, not only for their sake, but for the sake of his mercy. Webster’s dictionary defines mercy as “that benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to treat an offender better than he deserves.” How true this is! We deserve absolutely nothing, and yet our merciful God sent his Son to die in our place so that we might inherit eternal life. Israel was right to seek God’s mercy. May we thank God every day that he is merciful towards us. Sing or pray Psalter #123.
January 14 Read Romans 8:28–39
“Yea for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter” (Ps. 44:22). Our enemies are all around us seeking to destroy us, and yet Paul says in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The trials spoken of in Psalm 44:22 and Romans 8:36 are the ones we suffer because of our belief in God. Because Israel would not forsake their covenant God and king, they were “counted as sheep for the slaughter.” So many were killed that it seemed as if that was their only reason for existence. The end of the world is drawing nigh and the day may come when we too are “counted as sheep for the slaughter.” We too may be tempted to cry like Israel in Psalm 44:23, “Why sleepest thou O Lord?” We must pray for the strength to say with Paul, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). Sing or pray Psalter #122.
January 15 Read Psalm 45:1–9
This psalm speaks of the perfect love that abides between Christ and his Church. The first half focuses on the glory of Christ, the bridegroom. As God’s people, we love to speak of his glory. Each of our tongues is “the pen of a ready writer.” Shoshannim, in the title of this psalm, is often believed to refer to strewn lilies and roses. This makes sense in the context of Song of Solomon 2:1, which reads, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Christ is more beautiful to us than anything this creation has to offer. Christ is pure, and he destroys all that is evil. He goes to war to deliver us, his bride, from death. Indeed, we confess with Paul in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Sing or pray Psalter #211.
January 16 Read Psalm 45:10–17
When my wife and I had pre-marriage counselling, our pastor brought out to us the importance of making our spouse first in our lives. First, that is, in relation to parents and siblings. We would soon be joined in holy matrimony, and that bond is stronger than any other earthly bond can be. This idea is stressed to the bride in verse 10. She is told to “forget” her “own people” and her “father’s house.” The church must always put her husband, Christ, first in her life. We, in our earthly marriages, must remember that they picture that heavenly marriage. Therefore our relationship with our spouse must come before all other earthly relationships. Sing or pray Psalter #124.
January 17 Read Psalm 45:10–17
The second half of this psalm is addressed to the church, the bride of Christ. He sees her as beautiful and the only one he desires. He loves his bride perfectly. In response, she worships him as Lord. Once again, we can clearly see how our earthly marriages are to mirror this. God’s main command to husbands in Ephesians 5 is to “love your wives,” and his main command to wives is to “submit yourselves unto your husband.” As husbands, I think we need to remember that it’s our love that comes first, just as Christ loved the church first. When we are showing true love towards our godly wives, then their submission will follow naturally. Finally, as we see that loving submission, it only causes us to love the woman that God has given us even more. Sing of pray Psalter #125.
January 18 Read Ezekiel 26:1–5
Why does the daughter of Tyre bring the bride of Christ, the church, a gift in Psalm 45:12? As we see in Ezekiel 26, Tyre was a very wicked city. It was one of the main cities of the pagan Phoenicians, and the same nation from which Jezebel came. Calvin, Spurgeon, and Matthew Henry believe that this verse in Psalms points to the fact that the sound church receives the respect of earth’s powerful men and nations. As Calvin puts it, “Some of the great men of this world, although they themselves refuse to submit to the authority of Christ, act with kindness towards the Church, maintaining and defending her.” Spurgeon goes so far as to say that this means the church will “Impress and attract the heathen around, till they also unite in doing honor to the Lord.” I tend to think that the “daughter of Tyre” here refers to the fact that God’s people in this new dispensation come from all nations. Together, they bring gifts in celebration of the perfect marriage. Sing or pray Psalter #269.
January 19 Read Psalm 46
This psalm prompted the great Martin Luther to write the well-known hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This song, sometimes referred to as “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation,” reiterates the sovereignty of God and the unshakeable hope we have in him through Christ Jesus that is celebrated here in Psalm 46. This must have been a very personal message to Martin Luther. He experienced first-hand the corruption that had crept into the Roman Catholic Church. He stood up for the truth and experienced great persecution for it. He lived at a time when being put to death for believing the truth was commonplace. Yet God gave him the strength that he needed, and he was able to confess boldly, “The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, his kingdom is forever.” What a blessing it is to know that no matter what trials may come upon us in this life, God will give us the perfect measure of strength for each day. Sing or pray Psalter #128.
January 20 Read Psalm 46:4–5
According to Matthew Henry, the river here is a picture of the covenant, and the streams are the promises of that covenant. These promises come to God’s people and give them life, for God’s word is living water. God is the center of the covenant, and his people cannot fall out of it. This is a great comfort to us and one that many reject. Can you imagine the horror of a covenant that we could be in one day and out of the next? How could any of us remain within it? We know how great our sins and miseries are. We know the evil thoughts of our hearts. Praise God that we have nothing to fear, for “God is in the midst” of us, and we “shall not be moved.” There are times that we waver, but our God will always come quickly to our aid. Sing or pray Psalter #127.
January 21 Read Habakkuk 3:1–13
The word selah appears in the Bible seventy-four times: three times in these verses and seventy-one times throughout the Psalms, according to gotquestions.org. The precise meaning of the word is uncertain, largely because it’s unclear which Hebrew word the English form is translated from. Some think selah means, “to measure or weigh in the balance,” while others think it was a musical direction to the Psalm performers, meaning “to weigh.” A good way to view the meaning of this word is as a combination of these two possibilities. Whenever we read it, we should pause and calmly think about the message that God has just conveyed to us. Selah is used three times in Psalm 46. These pauses make us stop and think about how our God is always there for us, how he loves his people, and how he directs all things perfectly according to his plan. Sing or pray Psalter #207.
January 22 Read Isaiah 2:1–5
At the end of time, all the nations will finally come together in worship of the one true God. Instead of persecuting the church, governments will work to grow and preserve it. All men, who before were divided by hatred, will now be brought together in love.
This is the way that many professing Christians interpret these verses. They seek a real heaven on earth. We know that this cannot be true. The Bible clearly tells us that God’s people will be bitterly persecuted right up until the very moment when our Savior returns. We need to remember that the elect within each country are the real nation. In this sense, it is true that “all nations shall flow” into the house of God. It is because of this that when we confess in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” it is not a contradiction. This parallel passage to Psalm 46:9 is a beautiful reminder to us that, although it can sometimes seem as if we are all alone in the world, God has truly gathered his people from all nations. Sing or pray Psalter #269.
January 23 Read Psalm 46:10–11
“Be still and know that I am God.” This command, spoken by God himself, is to the wicked. Let God’s enemies be still. Let them threaten and rage no more, for all they do is in vain. “The Lord shall laugh at him [the wicked]: for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psalm 37:13). God will be exalted not only in the church among his people, but even among the wicked in all the earth.
Furthermore, this admonition to “be still” comes to us, God’s people. Let us be calm and tremble no more. For our God is God alone. He will be exalted and will fulfill his own counsels. It doesn’t matter if we fail to praise him as we ought. It doesn’t matter if we sin in the sight of the wicked and give our God a bad name. Of course, we must repent and turn from our sins, but in the end, God will make sure that his name is exalted in the earth. “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? And I will not give my glory unto another” (Isaiah 48:11). Sing or pray Psalter #375.
January 24 Read Psalm 47
Why should we praise God? This psalm provides us with many answers to that question. He rules over all things, including the wicked. They are hardened in unbelief, but still must confess that he is God. He is the only one who is truly awe-inspiring. When we think on how he loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die for us, unworthy as we are, we see how clearly that is true. He controls the nations, so that even they act in accordance with his perfect plan. This is important for us to remember as we see the signs of the times all around us. He is preparing a place for us in heaven, and that inheritance will be ours when we travel through the passage of death. Truly, we have nothing to fear. Sing or pray Psalter #130.
January 25 Read Psalm 129
Psalm 47:3 promises victory. First, it promises victory to Old Testament Israel as they seek to conquer the land of Canaan and subdue all the wicked nations there. Second, it looks forward to the kingdom of the Messiah, which is to be set over all the earth and not confined to the Jewish nation. We are going to be a part of that kingdom. Jesus Christ will gather us as sheep to the fold and will preserve us to himself. “For ye were like sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Pet 2:25). Third, the battle is not ours but the Lord’s, and he will certainly achieve victory for his people. As Psalm 18:47 states, “It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.” Sing or pray Psalter #361.
January 26 Read Genesis 22:1–2
The Bible talks about a number of different mountains in and around Jerusalem. The main ones are Mount Zion, Mount Moriah, and the Mount of Olives. They are all located within a half mile of one another, so you can get a sense of how small the old city of Jerusalem really was. Although the Bible refers to them as mountains, they are really just hills, with the Mount of Olives being about 300’ taller than the other two. This was the location of the Garden of Gethsemane and where Jesus ascended up into heaven. Mount Moriah was where Solomon built his palace, as well as the temple, leading this area to be referred to as the Temple Mount. As we see in Genesis 22, this was also where God brought Abraham to sacrifice his Isaac. Mount Zion became a symbol for God’s people, and we will dig more into that landform next time. Sing or pray Psalter #132.
January 27 Read Psalm 48
Mount Zion is mentioned all throughout the Bible. It is often used to represent the kingdom of heaven. In Jeremiah 3:14, God calls his bride back, saying, “I will bring you to Zion.” Mount Zion is specifically called “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” in Hebrews 12:22.
In this chapter, Mount Zion is called “the mount of his holiness,” in verse 1. It is “beautiful for situation,” as it lies close to God’s heart. Mount Zion rejoices as God brings judgment upon all workers of iniquity. The mountain is protected by the impenetrable arms of the Almighty God. He holds us under the shadow of his wing, and we shall not be moved, “For this God is our God for ever and ever.” Sing or pray Psalter #134.
January 28 Read Psalm 116
This past Sunday, the title of our evening sermon was “Guided to Glory.” The passage that we read was Psalm 116, “Praise for deliverance from death.” Psalm 48:14 says that God “will be our guide even unto death.” How do these two ideas go together? How can God deliver us from death while also guiding us to it?
The key to answering this question is making the distinction between physical and spiritual death. Our God has delivered us from spiritual death through the shed blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. Spiritual death is found in the wide path. God guides us down the narrow path straight to heaven. The death that we encounter at the end of our life is merely our passage into everlasting life, where there will be no death. Sing or pray Psalter #311.
January 29 Read Psalm 49
There was a test conducted by a professor at Stanford University in the 1960s on the subject of delayed gratification. Over six hundred preschool-aged children were given a marshmallow and told that they could have an additional marshmallow if they were just able to wait fifteen minutes before eating it. Although most tried for a little while, fewer than one-third of the children were able to hold off for the required fifteen minutes.
Reading this Psalm made me think of that study I had learned about back in college. It is so easy for us to fall into the temptation of building up our treasures here on this earth, like a child who can’t wait fifteen minutes to eat a marshmallow. We are all like small children spiritually, and, even though we know what God has promised us in the life to come, we so quickly forget. We need the constant reminders that we receive from reading the scriptures and hearing them preached twice each sabbath day. Sing or pray Psalter #136.
January 30 Read Psalm 49:5–10
What is the “iniquity of my heels” mentioned in verse 5? Spurgeon refers to it as the evildoers who are on every side, waiting to entrap us. Matthew Henry explains it as our past sins. He believes that the “days of evil” refer to the time of old age and death, while Spurgeon points to any time that the believer is feeling spiritually low.
I think that both ideas can be gleaned from this verse. As we grow older, “Our sins rise up against us, prevailing day by day, but thou wilt show us mercy, and take their guilt away.” We do not fear, because we know that we have been delivered. In addition, the devil brings temptations upon us especially when we are feeling low. However, once again, we need not fear. The riches of Satan’s servants will be gone in a moment, while the riches of heaven promised to us are everlasting. Sing or pray Psalter #2.
February 1 Read Psalm 50:7–15
When I was a student teacher back in college, I had the opportunity to teach in a Roman Catholic high school. This was definitely not where I wanted to end up, but in hindsight, I can see God’s purpose in bringing me there. I learned a lot about the cold cult that is Roman Catholicism, and came more to appreciate what we have here in the Protestant Reformed Churches. I remember my cooperating teacher telling her 10th grade religion class that Jesus likes it best when we want to go to mass, but that just being there is enough. What blasphemy that is! God is not wooed by the “flesh of bulls” or the “blood of goats.” It is only when we call upon him from the heart that he will hear and deliver us. As Psalm 145: 18 states, “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Sing or pray Psalter #137.
February 2 Read Psalm 50:16–23
After Asaph instructs the elect to worship God from the heart, he denounces the wicked for not keeping God’s commandments. God will respond to those who falsely claim to believe by saying, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7: 23). These are the ones that “forget God,” as it says in vs. 22. Notice the graphic punishment that comes upon them if they don’t repent. They will be torn “in pieces.”
When I read this, I started to think about all the times I forgot God. I don’t defend the truth when I hear it attacked. I think evil thoughts about my brother in Christ. I become attached to the things of this world. Oh, how great my sins and miseries are! However, the child of God is not left in despair. We are delivered from being torn in pieces by our Savior Jesus Christ. We thank thee, O God, that thou hast shown us “the salvation of God!” Sing or pray Psalter #353.
February 3 Read 2 Samuel 12: 1–12
When we study Bible stories like this in class, students often want to know, “How could such a godly man do something like that?” This question naturally comes to our minds when we read of some of the horrible sins committed by the great heroes of faith. Personally, I think it’s because of this that we find these things in the Bible. God is constantly reminding us that we are all sinners worthy of death, even the most righteous among us. Our officebearers in the church are great spiritual leaders that God has given us, but they are still prone to sin. I must be careful not to think that these people are somehow better than others, and become disappointed in them when sins inevitably rise to the surface. The heroes of faith were not and are not characterized by their lack of sin, but by their humble, heartfelt repentance. This we see clearly in Psalm 51, where David confesses to God, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight… Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Sing or pray Psalter #384.
February 4 Read 2 Samuel 12:13–23
Kim Davis has been married four times. I know this because I glanced at some of the comments under one of the many articles chronicling her refusal to issue gay marriage licenses. The world is always quick to pounce triumphantly whenever they find any hint of hypocrisy within the life of a professing Christian. They hate us; they really hate us.
David experienced this. He came to God with heartfelt contribution in Psalm 51 and was forgiven, but that did not undo the sin. It was still true that his sin had given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. We need to be aware that the world is watching and waiting for an excuse to mock our God. We are under the microscope, and only God can grant us the strength we need to withstand the scrutiny. Although all our enemies are round about, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Sing or pray Psalter #352.
February 5 Read Psalm 51
This is a beautiful psalm, for in it David expresses his sorrow for sin, as well as his love for God and the church. He calls upon God to cleanse him from his sin: not just the sin with Bathsheba, or even all the sins he has committed in his lifetime, but even the original sin in which he was conceived. He cries out as one who has the assurance of forgiveness and confesses that God “shalt make [him] to know wisdom.” David pleads, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” His sin had taken the joy of salvation away from him, and he wants it back. Then he will speak of the things of God to all people and sing his Father’s praises. He will praise the God who loves the publican and the sinner, the broken hearted. David will praise the God who loves his people forever and ever. Sing or pray Psalter #140.
February 6 Read Micah 6:6–8
The last four verses of Psalm 52 remind me of the story of Saul and the Amalekites. Samuel came to Saul and told him to destroy the Amalekites and “all that they have…both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” However, Saul disobeyed and kept the king of Amalek and the best of the sheep and oxen alive. When Samuel came to rebuke him, Saul’s excuse was that “the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God” (15:15). What did Samuel reply? “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).
David would gladly have given thousands of rams in sacrifice to make atonement for his sin with Bathsheba. But although God did require sacrifices to be offered, “He had no delight in them for any intrinsic worth or value that they had” (M. Henry). They were simply pictures of the one great sacrifice and could not satisfy for our sins in themselves. But “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (51:17). God has showed us what is good. He desires a humble heart. Sing or pray Psalter #246.
February 7 Read Psalm 51:10–19
In our last devotion, we talked about how God does not desire sacrifices as payment for our sins but wants instead a broken and contrite heart. This breaking of the heart is not done in despair, like the broken heart of a man who has lost something precious to him and has no hope of getting it back. It is a heart filled with humiliation, sorrow for sin, and hope. It is a heart “pliable to the word of God, patient under the rod of God, subdued and brought to repentance and trembling at God’s word” (M.Henry). Men despise what is broken, but God does not. He will not refuse or reject it. In fact, the great God overlooks heaven and earth, to look with favor upon a broken and contrite heart. “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:1-2). The only way to have this kind of heart is through Jesus Christ. We cannot have true repentance without faith in him. Sing or pray Psalter #141.