May 16, Thursday

Written by the same anonymous writer as yesterday and the day before.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Praising God in Spite of . . .”

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! 2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! 3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! 4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, 9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the Lord!

We have already seen that God is a being worthy of worship and that glorifying him is the reason for all that exists, including our own being. Psalm 149 focuses on a particular aspect of God’s greatness—the justice he will enact in the future that will make all things as they ought to be.

Have you ever been angered by the sheer amount of injustice and rebellion against God that fills the world? The Bible makes clear that all mankind has a heart that chooses that which is wrong: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Richard Wurmbrand’s experience as an imprisoned pastor in Communist Romania during the 50s and 60s illustrates this truth so poignantly. Wurmbrand was imprisoned, starved, and tortured for his Christian faith for nine years (including three in solitary confinement).

In his book Tortured for Christ, he recounts some of the words he heard from the prison guards while in chains: “’There is no God, no Hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners” (p. 34). Will people just get away with all the horrid things they have done against God and man?

I remember hearing when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il died peacefully at the ripe old age of 70. He murdered, raped, robbed, tortured, abused, and oppressed the people he was supposed to protect. I thought, “It looks like he just completely got away with all the evil things he committed! Dying in bed after a life of debauchery, pleasure, and oppression is no justice!” But the “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). He sees those who mock his moral law, who live for their own pleasure. God will “execute vengeance on the nations  . . . to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written!” (Psalm 149:8-9). In the end, justice is done.

Prayer: Lord, when we feel like You are sleeping and hiding Your face from us when we need You the most (Ps. 44:23), remind us to look to the cross and remain patient until we get to heaven.  Remind us that there we will discover You had a good reason for all that on account of redeeming the nations through Your Son Jesus (Rev. 5:9)—crucified, resurrected, ascended, and to return one day gloriously.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Ps. 73:2-4, 16-19, 25-26: “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Ps. 73:10-11, 17-18: “The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by [the wicked’s] might. He says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.’ O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Have you ever envied all the things those who don’t care about God are able to do, all the supposed pleasures they can indulge in because they have no regard for God’s standards?
  2. Does it sometimes seem like justice is so far away, that God doesn’t really see or care about all the evil people that constantly try to hurt and destroy others?
  3. Honestly, from a human perspective (and you are a human), do you harbor any grievance against God? Why don’t you take this moment to confess that to Him (a la Ps. 44:23)?

Notes

  1. It is true that we Christians can’t revel in all the things this world has to offer. But Jesus has told us that the road of integrity before God, although difficult, is the way to true pleasure: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). People may sneer and mock at us for this life choice: they might say, “I don’t know why you choose to deprive yourself just because an old book says so,” or “Get out of your medieval way of thinking and get accustomed to how enlightened twenty-first century people live.” But just as those who mocked Noah for building an ark, because it had never rained, were destroyed by God’s judgment, so too those who know in their hearts what is God’s law but choose to spit upon it will be rightly punished for their refusal to embrace what is good. God’s people must not live by the rules of the city of man but by the standards of the city of God, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
  2. Even though God’s justice may seem so far away, the day will come at the end of the age when it finally arrives! Evil will be punished and righteousness according to trust in Jesus will be richly rewarded. As the biblical saints of old expressed, we wait longingly for the day when all things will be made perfect: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
  1. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

How can we learn to not be troubled by all the evil in the world we see but trust that God will finally establish justice? And what about our own lives?—holy living is perhaps life’s greatest challenge, to learn to gradually become more like God.

What are some steps we can take to little by little become a little closer to who we ought to be? In all these things, we can remember that we are not alone, no matter our failures or despair: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

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