Year C – Pentecost – Psalm 104

Psalm 104:24-32 (NRSV)

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27 These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28 when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!


 Summary – Charles Spurgeon calls Psalm 104, “a poet’s version of Genesis.” The Psalm taken as a whole is a praise to God which loosely takes the shape of the seven days of creation. Verses 1-6 describe the work of the days one and two of creation; praising God for the light and the separation of the waters in the firmament from the waters below the firmament (Gen. 1:1-8). Verses 7-18 easily moves to the separation of the waters and the land on the third day, along with the creation of plant life and vegetation (Gen.1:9-14). The Psalmist sings of the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19), praising God for the sun and the moon in verses 19-23. The fifth and sixth day are included in verses 24-30, in which the sea creatures are created (even the sea monster Leviathan is mentioned!), and the land beasts. Man is thought to be absent from the list, because we most likely are to see him included in the fact that man is the author of the Psalm. But, I think verses 29- 30 speaks of man, when says,

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

Man is said to go back to the dust when he dies, and man is given the spirit of God for breath, and man is the agent of renewal for the earth (Gen. 2:6-8).Finally, the Psalm closes with a seventh day Sabbath hymn of praise, foreshadowing the final day of judgment in verse 32 when the whole history of God’s creation comes to an end and man will be judged.

Insight – It is interesting that this Psalm is used for Pentecost. We are reminded of God’s old creation, when the Spirit of God brought the pattern of Heaven down to Earth. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes again, this time bringing the life and love of Heaven to Earth. This is the New Creation. According to verse 30, the Spirit of God was given to man for the purpose of “renewing the ground.” Man was placed in the garden to cultivate it and guard it. Today, the Spirit of God sends us on a mission to cultivate and guard all of life, and to restore paradise again on earth. This is part of what it means for Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World. And with His ascension to Heaven, he was given all authority to disciple the nations. On Pentecost, the Spirit empowers us to do so. So let us go forth in the power of the Spirit of God, and renew the face of the ground, wherever the curse is found. Amen.

Catechism – Who renews the face of the ground? Man, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Discussion – Discuss the Sea Monster Leviathan (See Job 41:1; Ps. 74:14; Isa. 27:1)! Was supposed to stay in the garden if he were faithful? Or extend his dominion throughout the whole Earth? How can we extend dominion throughout the world today?

Prayer – O God, touch the hearts and mind of thy faithful people, by sending upon us the fire of thy Holy Spirit, that we might be like the ministers of flaming fire, spreading the message of Jesus Christ like the four winds to the ends of the earth. Grant us wisdom and the bond of love that we might live the life heaven here on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

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Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Sixth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 67

Psalm 67 (NRSV)

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

A  1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.

B  3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

C  4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah

B  5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

A  6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

 

Summary – It is believed that this Psalm was meant to be sung during the Harvest Feast, also known as the Feast of Weeks, or, as we know it today, The Feast of Pentecost. Verse 6 gives God the praise for “the earth yielding its increase”, so it seems appropriate that the context would be the Harvest Feast. This Psalm is written as a chiasm, as you can see the text arranged to fit an A B C B A structure. This means that the center point is the main focus of the Psalm, which is verse 4. The Psalm is a praise and a prayer that focuses on God blessing “us”, so that the nations and the peoples of the earth would also receive blessing from God (1-2, 6-7). The very middle verse, verse 4, gives us the center of the Psalm and helps us to focus on the main point. Because God blesses his people, all the nations of the earth will also be blessed (a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen. 12:1-3). As a result of that blessing on the nations will be glad and will sing for joy, because God will judge with righteousness, and he will guide the nations of the earth. For nations that have been walking in the darkness of their own sins, the righteous judgments and laws of God and the Spirit to obey such laws are indeed a blessing that is worthy of singing for joy and with gladness.

Insight – The Blessing of Abraham that came upon the whole world is the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives people faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:14). The Holy Spirit was given to the world on the Feast of Pentecost, when this Psalm was most likely to be sung. Jesus tells his disciples that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few. Pray earnestly to the Lord of Harvest that he would send laborers into the harvest” (Luke 10:2). The harvest is the gathering up of all the believers throughout the whole world. This Psalm is a prophecy about the future salvation of the world, of people from every nation, who will be blessed by God with the gift of the Holy Spirit. God first blessed Abraham, and then has blessed Israel, and then blessed Jesus, and then blessed the disciples, and then blessed the nations with the Holy Spirit. And He has blessed you too. Will you sing this song as you go into the harvest of people and gather them up for the Lord, so that they too might be blessed?

Catechism – Who has God blessed? Us.

Discussion – Discuss the Abrahamic Covenant and what that means for the world (Gal. 3:14). Discuss what it means to go into the harvest. Discuss the responsibility we have being blessed by God to share that blessing with others.

Prayer – O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sirts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal, that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of peace, and in righteousness of life. And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Fifth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 148

Psalm 148 (NRSV)

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and women alike,
old and young together!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Summary – This Psalm calls upon the whole of creation, in both of its divisions, the Heavens (v. 1-6) and the Earth (v. 7-14), to give praise to God. Verses 1-4 call for the Heavens and those associated with it to give praise to God, while verses 5-6 tell why it is that the Heavens should give praise to God. Similarly, the second half of the psalm, verses 7-12, calls upon those creatures associated with the earth to give praise to God, with verses 13-14 giving the reason why.

The Heavens are to praise God because God “commanded and they were created” (v. 5). He has also established them forever and ever (v. 6); and he rules the heavens with a decree, that is, he has ordered the universe to work in the way that it does, and it will not pass away. Praise God! The Earth is also to Praise God because God’s name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. And he has lifted up a horn for his people, Praise for all his faithful saints, praise for the people of Israel who are close to Him” (13-14). Praise the Lord!

Insight – When we read about “the Heavens and the Earth” we tend to put up a dividing wall between the two. The Heavens are way up there, and the earth is down here, with us. We are on the Earth, and God is in Heaven, and one day we will go to Heaven. But when we think like this, we miss the whole point that the Bible is trying to tell us when it puts the Heaven and the Earth together like this. Verse 14 gives us a reason why the earth it praise God, whose glory is above both Heaven and Earth – and that is because God is near to His people Israel. If God is in Heaven, and we are on the Earth, how can God’s saints be near Him (verse 14)? How can a people who are on Earth be near to a God who is in Heaven? This is because in Jesus Christ, who is “the horn” mentioned here in verse 14, came to bring together all things in himself, things in Heaven, and things on Earth. In Jesus, Heaven and Earth come together. He is the bridge between the two worlds. And since we are united to Him in His death through baptism and faith, we are near to God who is in Heaven, and God is near to us. And this is why he came – to bring Heaven to earth together.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.   – Colossians 1:15-20 NASB

Catechism – Who is commanded to Praise God? The Heavens and the Earth.

Discussion – Discuss the sea monsters in verse 7! Discuss how heaven and earth are not separated worlds, but are inter-connected. What does that mean for how we think of ourselves, the earth, God, and Jesus? What does it mean to be near to God? Is it good or bad to be near to God? Encourage your children to see everything in nature as an expression of praise to God. The snow, the wind, clouds, fire, hail, trees, mountains, beasts, and kings – and yes, especially the sea monsters! It is important for us to be amazed with the creation and to see it as giving praise to God.

Prayer – Almighty God of Heaven and Earth, the whole creation gives you praise. Though your glory is exalted above the heavens, you delight to draw us near to you. Let us be reminded that in Christ we ascend to the heavenly Jerusalem, and in Christ you come down to eat with us at your Son’s table. Grant us the grace to see all things being recreated and made new in Jesus. Amen.

 Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Fourth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 NRSV

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

 

Summary – This psalm is probably the best known passage of the Old Testament. Here David sings of God’s  faithfulness throughout his life. The Psalm confidently describes the Lord as David’s Shepherd, King, and Dinner Host. Jesus said in Luke 24:44 that the Psalms were written about him. Let us read this passage and see how it speaks about Christ. Jesus totally trusts in God for his provision (v. 1-3), Jesus trusts in God for his protection (v. 4-5), and Jesus trust that God would be faithful to his promises (v. 6).

Insight – Interestingly, in the Old Testament there is a very close connection between shepherds and kings, often being understood as synonymous terms (Ezek. 34). David was a shepherd, and he became a king. In this Psalm, David, the king of Israel,  is expressing his confidence in God as the true King, and as the true shepherd of Israel. The Lord protects him and guards him from his enemies. Jesus is the greater David, and as such, he himself is the greater shepherd-king (John 10). The Good Shepherd lays his life down for the sheep, and that is exactly what Jesus did. Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he feared no evil, because God was with him on the cross. And as a result of the shepherds death for his sheep, “surely goodness and mercy follows him” all the days of his everlasting life. And because Jesus is our Shepherd, we too shall not fear any evil. For God with us, and he will protect us, and even prepare sweet communion with him in the presence of our enemies, the greatest one he has already defeated – death.

Catechism – Who is our Shepherd? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – How does this psalm refer to Jesus? Discuss shepherds and kings, and dinner hosts, and explain how Jesus is all of these, and how that relates to the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer – Almighty and Heavenly Father, you have sent your Son Jesus to be for us our Shepherd King who prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies. Give us the grace to trust that you will guide and protect us, and that your goodness and mercy will be with us all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

 

Year C – Third Sunday in Easter – Psalm 30

Psalm 30 NRSV

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

 

Summary – The theme of this Psalm is fitting for the Easter season – Resurrection! In vss.1-3 David praises God for drawing him up (v.1), healing him (v.2), and bringing up his soul from Sheol, and restored his life from the pit (v.3). Sounds like a resurrection!

Verses 4-5 David commands us to sing praises to God because even though God gets angry, it is only for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping is for a night, but joy comes in the morning. With the theme of resurrection on our mind, we can think of the Jesus absorbing the anger of God for a moment on the cross, and with His death we will weep. But in the morning there is joy, because God is no longer angry, his wrath has been satisfied, and now his favor rests upon us for our entire lives, because Jesus is alive forevermore. Amen!

Verses 6-10 I think is a lament from David. David had God’s favor, but something happened to make God “hide His face” from him, that is, remove His favor from him. Perhaps this event was  David’s census in 2 Sam. 24, which brought the Lord’s judgment upon Israel and seemingly almost led to David’s death (v. 9). David then bought the threshing floor of Araunah and built an altar on it so that he could make sacrifices for sin (2 Sam. 24:18-25). God responds with forgiveness and removes David’s sackcloth (the clothing of repentance) and clothes him with joy – resurrection!

Insight – David built an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah. There he offered up sacrifices, and was raised again to life, symbolically. This is the same place that Solomon built the temple (2 Chron. 3:1), which is located on Mount Moriah.  Mount Moriah is the same place that Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, and where God, in a sense, “raised him from the dead” (Heb.11:19). Jesus talks about his own resurrection as the rebuilding of the Temple (John 2:19-21). In the Bible, death, resurrection, and temple building seem to all fit together. Let us be reminded once again that Jesus in His death and resurrection has made us to be a living Temple with Him as the chief cornerstone. The Temple was created for the purpose of praising and worshiping God. Let us then, as the living temple of God, be diligent to offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Catechism – How long will God favor you? For my whole life.

Discussion – Discuss the Jesus as the Temple. Discuss the Church as the Temple. How does Jesus’ resurrection like building a Temple? Discuss how repentance of sin is like a death and resurrection.

Prayer – Almighty and Victorious Savior, we praise you for going down to death for us, and there killing sin and death, and the Devil. Up from the grave you arose, with a mighty triumph over your foes. You arose a victor from the dark domain, and you live forever with your saints to reign. Therefore Most Blessed Savior, we praise you forever, for obtaining God’s eternal pleasure for us. In your name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Second Sunday in Easter – Psalm 150

Psalm Lesson – Psalm 150 NRSV

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

 

Summary – The Book of Psalms comes to a close with a command to praise God. Hallelujah, literally means “Praise the Lord.” The Psalmist tells us in verse 1 where the Praise of God should take place – in His Sanctuary, and in His mighty Firmament, that is, Heaven. Verse 2 tells us why we should praise God – For His mighty deeds, and because of God’s excellent greatness. Verses 3-5 tell us with what we should praise God – trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, dance strings, pipe, and cymbals. This is an all encompassing list, meant to tell us that  we should praise God with all kinds of instruments, and the louder the better! The last verse tells us who is to praise God – “everything that breathes, praise the Lord!”

Insight – The last verse of says, “Everything that breathes, Praise the Lord.” That is a lot of things. In Genesis, when God created Adam, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). The “breath” that was given to Adam was the Spirit of God. The Spirit is what makes us a living soul. I think Psalm 150:6 is suggesting what the living soul who has been given breath is supposed to do – Praise the Lord! God made us to worship Him, and praise Him, and sing Praises to Him. That is the number one reason that we even have breath. The second reason is to breathe to live. But your breath helps push words out of your mouth, and helps you make noises and sounds. And those sounds that your breath helps make, are meant to be used as Praises to God. If there was ever a song that would help us to know that the reason we breathe is sing Praises to God, Handel’s “Messiah” is it! Sing with me. Take a breath. Breathe in……Breathe out……Breathe in……and sing…

Hal—le-lu-jah! Hal—le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le——lu-jah!

The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth!!! Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah!

Catechism – Who is to Praise the Lord? Everything that breathes.

Discussion – Discuss the worship of the Church. Why do we sing songs n Church? Why do we like to sings songs in Church? What is the relationship between singing and learning? Discuss a plan about how your family can practice the singing songs for Church for the upcoming week to prepare yourselves praise God better, and not learn the song on the spot.

Prayer – Hallelujah! We praise and honor and glorify you Father, for you have created us to be worshippers, and you have given us the Holy Spirit to be our very breath. You have redeemed us in your Son Jesus, so that we could worship you in Spirit and in Truth. May you give us the grace to live every breath with worshipful purpose. Put into our heart a new song, so that Your praise never get old and stale or turn into dead familiarity. May we always be excited to give you the praise for the great deeds you have done, and for your excellent greatness! In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Easter Sunday – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Psalm Lesson – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 NRSV

 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

14The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Summary – These verses of Psalm 118 are about salvation, that is, how God rescues and saves His people. Because God loves us forever and ever, He promised to save us (v.1-2). So it is good and right that we should thank Him for this salvation. Because God’s strength is what saves us (v.14), the righteous are glad to sing songs about it. The song is in verses 15 and 16 –

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”

This song reminds us that God is a mighty warrior who fights the battle for us. His “right hand” is the hand that wields the sword in battle (v.16; Ex. 15:6, 12). But the way the Lord is victorious and strong in battle is through the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah (v. 17-18). Jesus’ death and resurrection is the gate that we must enter through to have salvation (19-21). This is hard for people to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them. But it is the most important thing for salvation, yet, people reject it. How can God’s “strong right hand” win the battle of salvation by sending His son to die and rise from the dead?  But this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. And so, all we can do is rejoice and be glad in it (v. 23-24).

Insight – In the sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Gregg spoke about how Israel was saved from the poison of the snakes that bit them in the wilderness. All they had to do was look at a copper snake that Moses made, and they would be healed. The cure seemed pretty silly and doesn’t make sense to us. How could people be cured of a poisonous snake bite by simply looking at a metal snake? But it worked. And that is a marvelous work of God. Our salvation from sin is no less marvelous. We have all been bitten by the serpent of sin, and its poison is running through our veins, and it will kill us unless God gives us a cure. So, he tells us to look to Jesus on the cross, and to believe in His resurrection. Jesus’ death and resurrection was how God used His strong right hand to swing His mighty sword and win the victory of our salvation. He killed the enemies of Sin and Death and Satan by killing and resurrecting Jesus. This is a wonderful and marvelous thing that He has done for us. And now the cross of Christ is the gate of the Lord that the righteous must enter to have salvation (v.19-20). This Easter Sunday, rejoice with glad songs of salvation, giving thanks for the marvelous victory that God has won for us by His strong right hand in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Amen.

Catechism – Who is your strength, your song and your salvation? The Lord.

Discussion – What is a cornerstone? What happens if you reject the cornerstone? Explain how the death and resurrection of Jesus was like a sword blow that killed Sin, Death, and Satan.

Prayer – Almighty God, you have lovingly kept your promise to crush the head of the serpent by bruising your Son. Give us, we beseech Thee, eyes to marvel at Your steadfast love which endures forever, that we may gather into the tents of the righteous and sing glad songs of salvation. And this we pray in the Name of the One who died and is alive forever more, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Year C – First Sunday of Advent – Psalm 122

A Song of Ascents.  Of David.  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem–built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you!  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”  For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Summary – The Songs of Ascent (Pss. 120-134) were festal songs used by Israel as they “ascended” to Jerusalem for holidays, sacrifices, etc.  As the third in this set, Ps 122 follows sort of a “local progression.”  In Ps 120, the speaker/singer speaks of sojourning “in Meshech” (a warring tribe) and dwelling among “Kedar” (a pagan Ishmaelite tribe), “among those who hate peace.”  The singer begins singing the Songs of Ascent among warlike peoples, and heads towards Jerusalem (Heb. “Foundation of Peace).  In Ps 121, the singer “lifts up his eyes to the hills.”  Jerusalem is among the hills (Ps 125:2), and so the singer is looking towards his destination.  In our Psalm, 122, the singer has arrived in Jerusalem.  He was “glad” at the prospect of going up (vs 1), and is now standing within the walls (vs 2).  Prayer for the peace of that central city is a large part of the Psalm as well, with the purpose being maintaining the glorious state of the “house of the LORD” (vs 9) which resided in Jerusalem.

Insight – If you have read the Lord of the Rings, you know that Minas Tirith expected the return of their true King, the heir of Isildur.  Their kings were all descendants of their first king in Middle Earth, Elendil, though their power was less by the time of their last king, Earnur.  Finally, Aragorn, the heir arrived and began his kingdom.  As Advent season begins, our sights are set on the coming of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.  In this Psalm, we read about the capitol of His Kingdom, Jerusalem, where “thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David” (vs 5).  Though there was a great span of time between the last King of Israel and Christ, Christ is the Heir of David who arrived and began His kingdom by disarming the previous rulers.  This week, be thankful for Christ’s throne, from which He shall reign forever and ever.

Child Catechism – Which king was Jesus descended from?  King David.

Discussion – What does the peace of Jerusalem mean in the New Covenant?  How can you seek the peace of Jerusalem?

Prayer – Our Lord and King, we give thanks to your name for bringing us within your gates and adopting us as your children.  We pray for peace among your people as we consider the coming of the Prince of Peace, for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and also for the sake of the whole house of the Lord.  Help us to strive for the peace of our heavenly city, that the nations would see its light and come to it.  Through Christ, Amen

Year B – Day of Pentecost – Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Psalm 104:  Lord, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.        35b  Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!  (NRSV)

Summary:  The created universe is deeply personal; it is not a reality made up of impersonal objects (as so many want to believe).  Everything in creation is dependent upon, and always in the presence of the Creator.  This entire psalm reflects upon those initial days of creation, praising and rejoicing in God’s handiwork.  These final verses particularly relates to his role as the provider of life for all creatures.

Insight:  Even as Christians, we can think of God as being far away and the creation as impersonal.  This is simply not so.  We have all seen God’s signature.  We have seen his life giving Spirit at work in our own lives and in this amazing world.  We have seen his creativity and wisdom in many ways.  And as the psalmist reminds us, even the rest of God’s creatures rely on his Spirit for life.  Now that same Spirit, the one who created and now sustains the world, has begun to recreate our broken existence.  He has brought Christ back from the dead.  And as we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, he has been poured out upon the church.

Child Catechism: Who has created the world?  The Triune God: Our Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Discussion:  What is the most interesting creature you can think of?  How might the dry bones of Ezekiel 37:1-14 relate to what Paul says in Romans 8:22-27?

Father God, Your Spirit creates life, recreate our hearts and minds, empower us by your presence, that we may truly live and serve you.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Contributed by M. West