The question posed to the college speech class was, “What are your priorities?” Students were to compose a 1-to-2-minute speech listing their top 3 priorities. The next class meeting did not bring shocking answers. There were those which were well-thought, and some that were probably written on the walk to class. Family, significant others, and friends made many lists, and at the top of many lists was God and/or faith. At the end of the class, the professor reminded the students ordering one’s priorities will dictate how we act in life.
As Christians, Psalm 37 helps us align our priorities. Verse 4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” David recommends we put the Lord at the top and center of everything we do. The Lord will then plant desires in our hearts, and he will help us align our priorities for a peaceful and satisfying life. Living out David’s recommendation puts our focus on the Lord’s plan and purpose rather than shiny things we believe will bring satisfaction apart from God.
So, ask yourself the question posed in the speech class. What are your priorities?
We pulled into the Bob Evans parking lot, and our daughter noticed a gentleman standing between the parking lot and street. He was holding a sign at the intersection of two busy roads. She read the sign and asked if we could give him some money. His sign was requesting money for food.
How were we going to respond to his request?
We didn’t know the man or s of his situation, but we were faced with a choice. This is just one example of an everyday occurrence; each day we are given the choice of how to respond to various situations. Whether it is the guy in the parking lot with a sign or the lady in front of us in line, we have to choose how to interact. We have to decide how to respond to that driver who cut us off in traffic or that grouchy person who bumped into us on the bus. Each day brings a new set of opportunities needing our response, and Psalm 37 gives us a pattern to follow.
Verse 3 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.”
The Psalmist encourages us to use these opportunities to do good. As we trust in the Lord, we should allow our faith to drive us to doing what is right even if others are doing what is wrong. We should allow our faith to guide us to do what is good. We may not know every detail of each situation, but the Lord does. When these opportunities come, our response should always be to do good.
As for the guy in the Bob Evans parking lot, we didn’t know his situation. All we knew is he was holding a sign asking for help, so we gave him enough money for a meal. He said thank you, and we went on our way. We’ll probably never cross paths again, but I hope by our doing good, the man at least saw a glimpse of Christ’s grace.
Found in Psalm 37, these words of David are a promise which should bring us great encouragement. David says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
This promise reminds us the Lord is with us in every step of our lives. The Lord is directing our lives just like he did Moses.
Moses was born at a difficult time in history. Egypt had enslaved the Israelites, and an edict was issued to control the Israelite population. Newborn males were not to be treated well, but the Lord intervened. Moses’ parents hid him for a while before placing him in a waterproof basket on the Nile. The Lord directed the basket to float to some reeds, where Pharoah’s daughter found it. She was instantly fond of the baby in the basket, and guess what…
His sister, Miriam, was her personal servant. Miriam was sent to find an Israelite mother to help care for the child, so she brought back her mom. Of course, this was also Moses’ mom. And, this was only the beginning of God directing the steps of Moses’ life.
As time marched on, the Lord enabled Moses to learn Egyptian customs by allowing him to grow up in Pharoah’s palace, trained Moses in the ways of the desert by having him shepherd sheep before becoming the shepherd of Israel, and by giving him the strength to stand before Pharoah proclaiming the power of the Lord. God guided Moses through each phase of life.
God can guide us through each phase of life as well. “Trust him,” the Bible says, “and he will guide your steps and make your paths straight.” And notice, David says, “Though they stumble….” We don’t have to be perfect. The Lord does not wait for us to lead a mistake free life before he starts guiding us.
He sure didn’t wait for Moses to be perfect before guiding him. Moses made his share of mistakes in Egypt, in the desert, and even after becoming the leader of God’s people. Even though Moses made mistakes, the Lord still offered him guidance.
Mistakes and all, the Lord offers us guidance. He meets our stumbles with a hand so we don’t fall. As we’re promised in Jeremiah, the Lord knows the plans he has for us. We just have to trust he will guide us each step of the way.
“Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?”
These words of Psalm 77 are like those of a personal journal. The Psalmist’s ink quail puts to paper the truth of his thoughts. They may be private thoughts; embarrassment would come if anyone else knew how he felt. However, they are relatable thoughts. Many ask the same questions amid life’s troubles. In fact, you may have noticed the questions and wondered how I knew what you were thinking.
It seems we ask these questions in hard times, feeling the answer may be yes, but Scripture reminds us the Lord is always faithful, always keeping his promises. As Hebrews 4 says, the Lord will never leave us, and Isaiah 64 states the Lord works for those who wait for him. The Psalmist said he asked these questions, but found hope in remembering the Lord.
He says in verse 11, “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord.” As he remembered the Lord, the Psalmist hope was restored.
We too can find hope in remembering the Lord.
We can find hope in remembering his deeds.
In verses 11-12, the Psalmist says, “I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”
Remember all the deeds of the Lord: how he brought the Israelites out of Egypt, how he helped Israel with the overwhelming task of conquering Canaan, and how he come walking out of the tomb. The Lord has always provided an answer to his people. Our hope can be restored by remembering his deeds.
We can find hope in remembering his character.
The Lord is holy. The Lord is merciful, gracious, loving, compassionate, faithful, and more! Remembering his character can bring us great hope.
We can find hope in remembering his power
The Psalmist proclaims in verse 14, “You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.”
God’s power has been on display throughout history. It was visible when he brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, toppled the walls of Jericho, and calmed the storm with a single word. The Lord’s power is awesome, and he works for those who wait for him. Remembering the Lord’s power restores our hope.
The Lord’s deeds, character, and power can provide us with much hope. The next time you feel rejected, failed, or as if the Lord has turned his back on you, restore your hope by remembering his deeds, character, and power.
Sleepless nights; you’re lying there, tossing and turning. Your mind is focused on the problems of the day; they are certainly enough to keep you awake at night. From the financial struggles of a pandemic to the decision about a new job, it seems the world’s troubles are prowling outside your window just waiting for an opportune time to pounce. Fear and insecurity are the dominant feelings of the evening, but Solomon reminds us they need not be.
He writes in Proverbs 3:
“You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.”
Our trust in the Lord can bring us security. It can bring confidence of knowing he has everything under control. Just look at how he’s handled problems in the past.
The people of Israel were caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, so the Lord’s solution was to part the sea, giving the Israelites a dry way across.
When Israel was in the desert with no food or water, God solved the problem by dropping Manna from Heaven and providing water from a rock.
The Lord sent ravens to feed Elijah, Naaman to the muddy waters of a river, …
And a baby to a manger to solve the biggest problem mankind has ever experienced. Mankind separated from God because of sin was the problem, and God’s solution was his son, Jesus. The Bible says, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” The Lord has been a master at problem-solving.
Each problem has been met with confidence, security, and compassion. Each one solved in a way only God could. The same God who took care of these problems is watching over us. He is handling our troubles with as much attention and detail. From the smallest of troubles to the biggest of problems, God solves each one in a way only he can. We only need to trust him.
As the Psalmist says in Psalm 91:
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
Troubles and problems are almost a guarantee. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced these types of seasons in life. If we trust him, the Lord’s security is also a guarantee. He will put his master problem-solving skills to work, and those sleepless nights can become restful ones. Psalm 4:8 concludes, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”
There is an old song which says, “I never promised you a rose garden.” And, even if life would be a rose garden, roses have thorns. It is not a well-kept secret life is filled with difficulties. There are the headline grabbing challenges such as a pandemic, and the challenges which rock only our own little world. Pink slips and financial burdens can stun us while the rest of the world breezes by. We do not have to search for the difficulties of life; they find us, but we can find hope during these challenging times.
It was certainly no rose garden for the people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah spoke of famine and drought; he spoke of harsh and hard times. But he also spoke of hope and where to find it amid life’s difficulties. Jeremiah’s words provided a way for the Israelites to find hope.
Jeremiah can lead us to hope just as he did the Israelites. Notice Jeremiah’s words in 17:5-8.
5 This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
A gardener bought two identical plants. She planted one in the middle of the desert and the other in fertile soil. Both plants look good for a couple days, but it did not take long for the plant in the desert to wither and die. Meanwhile, the plant in the fertile soil thrived, staying healthy even though conditions became harsh. Jeremiah’s prophecy helps us apply this principle to ourselves.
The person who puts his trust in man will be disappointed and let down. Hoping only in man will place us in the Valley of Broken Promises. Man is fallible and easily makes mistakes. Leaving the Lord out and completely trusting man leaves us in the desert.
But putting our trust in the Lord will always give us hope. The Lord is faithful to always keep his promises. Notice again the words of Jeremiah 17:7-8. Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord. He or she can survive the challenging times in life.
The Psalmist puts it this way. Psalm 1:3 says:
“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
Trusting in the Lord is what pulls us through those challenging times. It is what gives us the strength to push through and the hope of a better season coming. Where is your trust being placed today?
This was the message that came to David. Ordinarily, these are exciting words, but for David, they are frightening words. It is going to be clear he committed adultery. It is going to be clear he slept with another man’s wife. It is going to be clear he sinned.
So, David tries to fix it himself.
2 Samuel 11 records David sending for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, and having Uriah come home from the battlefield. If Uriah sleeps with Bathsheba, then everyone will assume Uriah is the father of the child. This doesn’t work though; Uriah is so loyal to his comrades that he refused to go home.
David tried getting Uriah drunk. If a sober Uriah wouldn’t go home, maybe a drunken Uriah would desire his wife’s company over loyalty, but Uriah still did not go home.
Another failure didn’t stop David. 2 Samuel 11 records his next move:
14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.
The Lord was displeased.
2 Samuel 11 tells us the Lord was displeased with David’s actions, and he summoned Nathan, a prophet, to pay David a visit. This was an unwelcomed visit filled with bad news. It thrust David’s sin with Bathsheba right in front of his face; he could not ignore it. It also served as a reminder of the Lord’s grace.
Not our actions, but God’s grace.
After chatting with Nathan, David wrote the words of Psalm 51. This is a great reminder of the Lord’s gracious response to us. Notice verse 1:
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
David wasn’t appealing for mercy and forgiveness based on his own actions. His request had nothing to do with what he had done; it had everything to do with the Lord’s character. David’s hope was in God’s unfailing love and great compassion. Left alone David made a bigger mess, but with the Lord, David found true forgiveness.
The same unfailing love and great compassion David saw in the Lord is there for us. Perhaps we’ve tried fixing our mistakes only to make a bigger mess, but the Lord can wash away our guilt just like he did David’s.
The Bible tells us a great deal about God’s character. He is an all-powerful, awesome Creator, who can begin and end events with a single word. He is a God with whom nothing is impossible. He is also a God of mercy and grace, worthy of praise. Notice what David writes in the Psalms.
Psalm 103:1-6 says:
1 Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. 2 Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. 3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 4 He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. 5 He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6 The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
Think about the picture these words paint of God. Dwell on his forgiveness and mercy. This Psalm goes on to remind us the Lord can take away our guilt, so challenge yourself to allow the God described above to be the Lord of life today.
Darkness engulfed New York in 1977, and guilt and fear overwhelmed a young boy. It took some time, but the boy’s parents finally discovered why he was so upset. Just as the lights went out, the boy had kicked a utility pole, so he was convinced he caused the great black out. Guilt paralyzed him until he realized the truth.
Guilt is something we all experience. A Psychology Today post reports, “We experience 5 hours a week of guilty feelings. One study found that if you add up all the moments you spend feeling mildly or moderately guilty, it adds up to a pretty significant chunk of time.”
It is not that we experience Guilt which causes a problem. It is our handling of the guilty feelings which makes a difference. Guilt is a trigger that can lead us to action, and it can be used by the Lord to help us discover true peace.
Guilt can be the tool which drives us to the Lord. Our guilt can push us to fully accept the Lord’s grace. Those mistakes, those failures of the past can create much guilt, but we can be set free in God’s grace.
Psalm 103:7-14 says:
7 He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 14 For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
This Psalm is a reminder of God’s grace. We do not get what we deserve; we get far more! In his grace, we can find freedom in Christ. The Lord removes our guilt and replaces it with his peace. He removes the guilt from past mistakes and replaces it with a hope for a better future. When you think of your past, do you concentrate on the guilt of past mistakes or the peace of Christ’s forgiveness?