Year A – Lent 2 – Psalm 121

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills; *  from where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, *  the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved *  and he who watches over you will not fall asleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *  shall neither slumber nor sleep; The LORD himself watches over you; *  the LORD is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *  nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *  it is he who shall keep you safe. The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *  from this time forth for evermore.

Sing this Psalm! See Psalm 121 Here

Summary – Psalm 121 is one of those psalms giving great comfort to God’s people. One phrase has been frequently used as a call to worship:  “From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” For those in covenant with God, like father Abraham, God has promised to bring about His covenant promises and will bring protection. Since God is the maker of the world, the elements of the world will not harm us. We can sleep with ease, because the sun will not hurt us, the moon will not hurt us and we are defended from enemies on all sides. This psalm functions as a benediction upon God’s covenant people.

Insight – All benedictions are general. If we receive the blessing that, God bless you and keep you, it may seem that sickness or trial would be inconsistent with this. But is it? To the unbelieving, every difficulty is a sworn witness against God’s goodness and His willingness to bless His people. But to one who is saturated in God’s word and promises, we know that all things work together for good because He is conforming us to the image of Christ. Abraham went through trials, but they all resulted in His receiving promised blessings from His Covenant Lord. So this psalm calls us to look to the Lord for goodness. We are to look to Him and from His hand we are to receive goodness. We are to trust that the Lord will preserve us from all evil. In believing this, we can weather trials and hardships because the Lord who is sovereign overall does not intend these as evil, but for our eternal good.

Child catechism – From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Discussion – What are some ways we could use blessings and then benedictions in our lives?

Prayer – O Lord God we trust you because you are the maker of heaven and earth. Grant that we who call upon you may be ever hopeful in your goodness and trustful and your mercy. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

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Year A – Epiphany 5 – Presentation of the Lord – Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. 
Selah
5 Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
*
6 As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favour and honour.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.

SummaryThe psalmist loved God, and loved engaging with God, and so he loved the place of God’s special presence, where he (with the worshipping community) engaged with God.  God’s courts were dear to him—he longed for them—his soul yearned to encounter God there.  In verse 6, he mentions that, leading up to the time of corporate worship, there may be times of “Baca” (tears), but the joy of worshipping God in His Temple turns those tears to refreshing springs.  The psalmist’s delight in God’s House—the place of God where he engaged in the worship of God—climaxes in verse 10, where he proclaims that he’d rather spend one day there than a thousand days anywhere else.  In fact, he’d rather be a doorkeeper at the place of God’s worship than live luxuriously in any other place.

Insight Are there any places special to you because of what has happened there, or who you’ve been with there?  One such place, for me, is a certain spot by a certain river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: the girl whom I’d marry and I spent time there on our first date, and (later!) I proposed to her there.  To me, that place means my wife, and means those events.  Maybe, for you, there’s a kitchen where your grandmother always bakes cookies, or a tree branch on which you always write stories, or a park to which your dad always takes you.  A place can take on special meaning for you.  The psalmist felt that way about the tents and Temple in which God made Himself specially present for corporate worship.  Today, we are God’s Temple—we are the place of His indwelling presence—so, we no longer worship in Jerusalem, but anywhere we gather together, in spirit and in truth.  On Sunday mornings, when we come together at any place, we ascend to the Heavenly Temple and engage with God, and He makes Himself specially present with us at His Table.  Do you long for this time of corporate worship in God’s presence?  Does your heart yearn to be engaging with God among other worshipers?

Child Catechism
Q:  One day in God’s courts is better than what?
A:  One day in God’s courts is better than a thousand days anywhere else!

DiscussionIs there anything that we can do to engage with God more intentionally, and to enjoy Him more deeply, during Sunday worship, so that that time would grow more dear to us?

Prayer O Lord of hosts, how dear to us is your dwelling place!  One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Grant that our souls might long for Your courts, and that our hearts might sing to You for joy, O living God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose presence is fullness of joy.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year A – Epiphany 2 – Psalm 40:1-11

Psalms 40 – To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.   4 Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods. 5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.   6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7 Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”   9 I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. 10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.   11 Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.

Summary – This Psalm speaks of the deliverance of David. God heard the cry of David even though he was in a slimy pit. God set him on firm ground. God provided security, pictured in very concrete terms. His feet are now on a rock, rather than in a swamp or bog of mud. This deliverance evokes a song of praise which will call others to such praise. Those who worship the true God will be blessed. God does not require sacrifices, but a willingness to obey Him. God desires those who delight to do His will. The Psalmist has given praise in the congregation of Yahweh’s deliverance and pleads that He will not withhold His mercy, but continue to give covenant love and faithfulness forever.

Insight – This Psalm is applied to Christ in Heb. 10:9. Christ is the obedient worshiper who comes to do the will of the Father. The words of this Psalm easily overlap with the Servant Song of Isaiah 53 in which it is said, “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days” (Isaiah 53:10). This is recalled in Philippians 2:8, when it is explained that Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” Such was the obedience of Jesus, the One who came to do the will of the Father.

Discussion – Given the rigorous system of sacrifices in the Old Testament, why does this Psalm say that God does not require such sacrifices?

Prayer – Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank you for the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus the Lord, who came in obedience to suffer death on a cross, that we might have life. Grant that we who are called into His body, the Church, may walk in the same obedience, yielding our wills to His in order to glorify Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 1 – Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,*
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Summary— Just as our minister calls us, each Sunday, to worship with angels and archangels, so may we call those angels and archangels to worship.  This psalm opens in the Throne Room with just such a call: the psalmist, energized by what is about to come, summons the heavenly beings to ascribe glory to God (v.1 and 2).  We do the same in the Doxology, when we sing, “Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.”  The scene now shifts to an awesomely tempestuous ocean, and the roaring thunder is nothing less than the voice of Yahweh (v.3).  That thundering voice in the storm sweeps inland, breaking down cedars (v.5), making all that is impressive to man bow down to Him.  Yahweh’s lightning flashes forth (v.7), shaking the wilderness (v.8) and stripping the forest bare (v.9).  All in His temple joyfully reel at the earth-shaking surge of power and in exhilarated awe shout “Glory!” (v.9).  The storm then passes over, and the people—in the wonder of the calm—look up between the dissipating clouds to see Yahweh enthroned serenely over the situation, as He sends the trailing end of His storm toward the horizon (v.10).  May He give the strength of that storm and the peace that follows it to us (v.11)!

Insight— Last summer, my kids and I got stuck under a park pavilion during the most ear-splitting and torrential storm I’ve ever experienced.  Lightning was striking all around us with incredible frequency, apparently a stone’s throw away, while water rose on the concrete slab where I stood holding one child in each arm.  With each strike of lightning and immediate peal of thunder, I’d yell out above the torrent, “What does thunder say!?” and the kids would yell back, “God is awesome!”  It’s a special memory.  I understand that not everybody likes storms, but at the risk of pushing my preference onto you (mainly because it’s the psalmist’s preference) you really should learn to like them, too, if you don’t already.  They’re awesome.  Don’t worry—Yahweh’s throne is over them, and it’s His voice that thunders in them.  It’s His voice that roars in the clash of wave and rock on the jetty just before the storm rolls inland.  Don’t miss God’s self-disclosure in nature: storms say something about Him—so do trees, flowers, mountains, canyons, snowflakes, raindrops.  As we traverse this valley of longing between glory and greater glory, where faith is not yet sight, we cherish the tokens of glory which God graciously gives to stir our longing and hint at its fulfillment.  So joyfully reel at His earth-shaking surges of power and in exhilarated awe shout, “Glory!”

Child Catechism—
Q: What does thunder say?
A: God is awesome!

Discussion—What are some other events or objects of God’s world which reveal Him?  What do they say?

Prayer—Yahweh, You are glorious and strong and we fall down before the splendor of Your holiness.  You are the God of glory and Your voice is powerful and full of majesty, thundering over the mighty waters.  As your voice breaks down cedars and flashes forth flames of fire and shakes the wilderness, we in Your temple say, “Glory!”  You sit enthroned over the flood as king forever.  Give us strength and bless us with the peace of Christ through whom we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year A – Christmas Day – Psalm 98

Psalm 98O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.  His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.  2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.  4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. 8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (NRSV).

Summary:  If your life had a soundtrack, what would some of the songs be?  In our home, our daughter is the one most likely to spontaneously break into a song.  That is the how this psalm comes across, as a bursting forth in praise, towards God and his mighty ways.  God’s justice, mercy, and truth are praised just within the first three verses; but then the psalmist evokes the images of nature and nations, which also display the Lord’s awesomeness. This Psalm also points us to God’s victory in bringing about His redemptive plan through Christ. Just as so many prophetic books speak of God coming to a renewed Zion and bringing about justice and mercy, so we find the fulfillment of these in the birth of Christ and His redemptive work and the ongoing work of His body, the Church. This Psalm forms the basis of Isaac Watts well known Him, “Joy to the World” in which Christ comes to “make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” That is justice and mercy.

Insight:   People can act in all kinds of strange ways when in front of a police officer, even when those people have done nothing wrong.  Other times, it can be a comfort to see law enforcement walking around a community or sporting event.  God’s justice has a similar effect.  We react to God’s justice in many strange ways. Of course we would like to see an appropriate level of fairness around the world; But at the same time we have silly views about the treatment of others and ourselves.  Moreover, it can be difficult to explain God’s just ways before our fellow men.  We may speak of God’s comforting love and mercy, but accordingly this Psalm reminds us that God is just and that his justice should be a comfort as well.

Child Catechism:  How does God judge the world?  God judges the world with righteousness and fairness.

Discussion:  What are some of God’s victories in your life?  What are some of the ways that God showed his steadfast love and mercy toward Israel in the Old Testament?

Just and Merciful Father,  we thank you for all of your provisions–seen and unseen,  put a joyful noise not only in our hearts but in our mouths,  proclaiming your steadfast love to all we encounter!   In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West

Year A – Advent 2 – Psalm 72

Solomon’s Reign is a Type of the Universal Reign of Jesus

Give the king your judgments, O God, And your righteousness to the king’s Son.  He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.  The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.  He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor.  They shall fear you as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.  He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth.  In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, Until the moon is no more. . . . Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!  And blessed be His glorious name forever!  And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen.

Summary – This messianic Psalm, Psalm 72,  looks to Solomon in the near future as a type of the Ultimate “King’s Son” (vs 1).  This Son will judge people righteously, and we recall the story of Solomon and the two women arguing over the child (1 Kings 3:16ff).  This Son will have dominion “from sea to sea” (vs 8), and Solomon indeed ruled all the land from the “River” to the sea (1 Kings 4:20ff), the allotted portion of Israel.  This Son would receive gifts from the “Kings of Sheba” (vs 10), and the “gold of Sheba will be given to him” (vs 15).  We remember the Queen of Sheba’s visit of course, in which she gave Solomon 120 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:10).  Solomon was however, as a typological shadow of Christ who was to come, an imperfect fulfillment of this Psalm.  Only Christ could be feared “as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations” (vs 5).  Only Christ’s Kingdom can encompass the whole earth (vs. 8) and have “all kings” bow before Him (vs 11).  Only Christ could save “souls” (vs 13).  The final refrain of the Psalm in vss. 18-19 indeed points to the Lord alone as the doer of “wondrous things.”  Solomon was the second step in the line of David’s throne and kingship.  But we see here again, like we saw in Psalm 122 last week, that David’s throne came with an inherent aspect of longevity and eternality.  Christ the true Son of David is the ultimate fulfillment of that great line.

Insight – Do you ever feel like the world is ignoring God?  People try to take the meaning of Christmas away, and ignore Jesus’ coming, but King David tells us about the “king’s Son” who is expected.  This son of the King will become king and will be followed forever.  He was promised to be like rain that waters the earth, and would bring righteousness and peace.  As we look forward to Christmas, this promise about Jesus’ coming should give us great hope!  Jesus is “living water” (John 4:10) who “waters” those who have faith in Him, and the night of His birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).  Though many people ignore the true King Jesus, His kingdom is everlasting and will finally submit all nations to it.

Child Catechism – How long will Jesus’ kingdom last?  Forever.

Discussion – How does Jesus “bring justice to the poor of the people”?  How does He “save the children of the needy”?

Prayer – O God of Israel, who only does wondrous things, blessed be your glorious name forever.  This Advent season we earnestly pray that the whole earth be filled with your glory.  Amen.