A Psalm With a Timely Warning!

Psalm 95

1Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

2Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise.

3For the LORD is a great God, the great King above all gods.

4He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.

5The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

6Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,

7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

8The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

9For there your ancestors tried my patience; they courted my wrath though they had seen my many miracles.

10For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

11So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
(Psalm 95:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If you read through the Psalms regularly, you no doubt have certain psalms that become your favorites. Psalm 95 is one of my favorites because it praises God for who He is and what He’s done.

Here is a simple list of items to recognize about God from this psalm:

    • He is the ROCK of our salvation
    • He is a GREAT God
    • He is the KING above all gods
    • He owns the depths of the earth
    • He owns the mightiest mountains
    • The sea belongs to Him because He created it
    • He also created the land
    • The Lord made US as well
    • The Lord is OUR God
    • He watches over us, His sheep

Though there are plenty of reasons to praise God, this psalm also comes with a command and a caution.

The command is to “listen to His voice today!”

The caution is that we not harden our hearts as the Israelites did at Meribah.

The reference here is to a situation that occurred in Exodus 17. The Israelites had been miraculously delivered from the Egyptians but found themselves wandering in the desert and doubting God’s motives and ability to provide. In the previous chapter they had complained about having a lack of food so God miraculously provided quail and manna for them to eat.

In Exodus 17, they found themselves thirsty with no visible source of water. Again, they complained to Moses and to God despite all of the miracles God had already performed to demonstrate His ability and desire to provide for His people.

In this psalm, the Lord gives the caution that we should heed as well. Despite the Lord’s miracles that we’ve seen in our own lives, we are all susceptible to a hardening of our hearts. This hardening will often come in times of distress or struggle, when things are not going the way we want. In those times, it’s easy to question whether God is there or whether He cares!

These words are especially timely, given all that’s happened this last year. It’s a reminder that God is still great. He’s still the king of all gods. He’s still the rock of our salvation. And He’s still the creator of all that we see, including US!

Therefore, God deserves our praise, even if our own personal circumstances aren’t what we would hope or desire.

Reflection

What are some times in your life where you’ve been tempted to harden your heart and question God or even doubt His existence? What were the circumstances?

What are some practical things you can do to avoid a hardening of your heart?

Besides the list from this psalm, what are some of God’s other attributes and actions that make Him worthy of our praise?

God’s command in this passage is to “listen to His voice today!” What are some ways you are able to listen to God’s voice? How do you typically hear the Lord’s voice?

 

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

 

What’s in a Name?

Exodus 3

1One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he went deep into the wilderness near Sinai, the mountain of God. 2Suddenly, the angel of the LORD appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush. Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up. 3“Amazing!” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go over to see this.”

4When the LORD saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

5“Do not come any closer,” God told him. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” 6Then he said, “I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he hid his face in his hands because he was afraid to look at God.

7Then the LORD told him, “You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8So I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own good and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites live. 9The cries of the people of Israel have reached me, and I have seen how the Egyptians have oppressed them with heavy tasks. 10Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You will lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

11“But who am I to appear before Pharaoh?” Moses asked God. “How can you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12Then God told him, “I will be with you. And this will serve as proof that I have sent you: When you have brought the Israelites out of Egypt, you will return here to worship God at this very mountain.”

13But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they won’t believe me. They will ask, ‘Which god are you talking about? What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15God also said, “Tell them, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This will be my name forever; it has always been my name, and it will be used throughout all generations.

16“Now go and call together all the leaders of Israel. Tell them, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—appeared to me in a burning bush. He said, “You can be sure that I am watching over you and have seen what is happening to you in Egypt. 17I promise to rescue you from the oppression of the Egyptians. I will lead you to the land now occupied by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ (Exodus 3:1-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

I’m not sure that it’s as much of a thing in our modern culture but in ancient times, a person’s name often said something about how they were born or the aspirations the parents had for their child.

For example, Jacob was born grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau, who was born first. The name Jacob means “grasps the heel”, but figuratively can mean “he deceives”.

Some time later, Jacob deceives his father Isaac into thinking he is Esau and he secures the blessing that normally was reserved for the oldest child, his brother Esau. When Esau learns that his blessing has gone to his brother, his response is “No wonder his name is Jacob, for he has deceived me twice, first taking my birthright and now stealing my blessing.”

Another example is Benjamin, whose mother Rachel died giving birth to him. In her last breaths before dying, she named the child Ben-Oni, which means “son of my sorrow.” However, Jacob called his son Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.”

So you see, names in the Old Testament often had meanings beyond just what was most popular in that year’s baby name book.

In this chapter, we are many years beyond the life-span of Jacob and his son Benjamin. While Jacob and his family were warmly welcomed in Egypt at first, thanks to Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh, over time the Israelites became so numerous that they became a threat to the king, who enslaved them as a means of controlling them and ensuring they would not be able to rise up  against him.

Moses, a Jew who grew up in Pharaoh’s household but who was wanted for murder, escaped to Midian, where he has been living for 40 years. One day he sees a strange occurrence, a bush that is burning but not being consumed.

He goes to take a look and finds out that it is God in the bush. God tells Moses that He has seen the suffering of His people and He’s commissioning Moses to go and rescue the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grip.

Moses really doesn’t want to go and he comes up with excuse after excuse as to why God shouldn’t send him. One of his excuses is centered around God’s name. “Look”, Moses says. “They’re going to ask me who sent me. What am I supposed to say? If I tell them the God of their ancestors sent me, they might ask ‘Which one? What is His name?'”

God is patient with Moses, addressing every one of his excuses. God’s response to Moses’ question about His name is “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God’s response is significant because it tells us something about His nature.

The phrase “I AM” is based on the verb “to be”. God is saying, “I’m the one who is.” Essentially, God is referring to Himself as the eternally self-existent one.

This is important because in this descriptive name of Himself, God is setting Himself apart from and above all other gods. It’s important to note that people in the Ancient Near East (ANE) were conditioned to believe that there were many gods who oversaw regions. Hence, they might think Moses was referring to some regional deity. In response to their question about which regional god sent Moses, God’s answer is to tell them “the eternally self-existent one” has sent you.

In our culture today, we sometimes give people nicknames, based on who they are or how we perceive them. In this chapter though, we see God giving Himself a name that describes himself as eternal and self-existent, meaning that he is not created and therefore is above all other created things.

Reflection

Did you have a nickname growing up? If so, what was your nickname and why were you given that name? If you didn’t have a nickname, think of someone you knew who did. What was their nickname and what was the reason they were called by that name?

What is the reason your parents gave you your name? If you were named after a relative, what was it about that person that motivated your parents to give you their name?

What are the implications for you in knowing that God calls Himself “I AM – the eternally self-existent one”? What other names do you find for God revealed in Scripture and what do they tell you about God’s nature?

 

Photo by Guido Jansen on Unsplash

The Whip of God’s Anger!

Isaiah 10

5“Destruction is certain for Assyria, the whip of my anger. Its military power is a club in my hand. 6Assyria will enslave my people, who are a godless nation. It will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. 7But the king of Assyria will not know that it is I who sent him. He will merely think he is attacking my people as part of his plan to conquer the world. 8He will say, ‘Each of my princes will soon be a king, ruling a conquered land. 9We will destroy Calno just as we did Carchemish. Hamath will fall before us as Arpad did. And we will destroy Samaria just as we did Damascus. 10Yes, we have finished off many a kingdom whose gods were far greater than those in Jerusalem and Samaria. 11So when we have defeated Samaria and her gods, we will destroy Jerusalem with hers.’”

12After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him—for he is proud and arrogant. 13He boasts, “By my own power and wisdom I have won these wars. By my own strength I have captured many lands, destroyed their kings, and carried off their treasures. 14By my greatness I have robbed their nests of riches and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs. No one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest.”

15Can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a whip strike unless a hand is moving it? Can a cane walk by itself?

16Listen now, king of Assyria! Because of all your evil boasting, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will send a plague among your proud troops, and a flaming fire will ignite your glory. 17The LORD, the Light of Israel and the Holy One, will be a flaming fire that will destroy them. In a single night he will burn those thorns and briers, the Assyrians. 18Assyria’s vast army is like a glorious forest, yet it will be destroyed. The LORD will completely destroy Assyria’s warriors, and they will waste away like sick people in a plague. 19Only a few from all that mighty army will survive—so few that a child could count them! (Isaiah 10:5-19, NLT)


Assyria is an ancient nation that at one time was THE biggest, baddest empire around.

As is typical of big, bad empires, they conquered other nations, took captives, plundered and slaughtered people and generally enforced their will wherever they went.

In this chapter of Isaiah, God describes the Assyrians as “the whip of my anger.” Its mighty military power is described by God as “a club in my hand.”

God explains that He is going to use the Assyrians as His tool to punish the Israelites, His people who have continually forsaken Him, despite many warnings about the consequences of abandoning the Lord for other gods.

After the Lord has used the Assyrians to accomplish His purposes, He explains that He will then punish the Assyrians.

Why would He punish the Assyrians if they were simply God’s tool to accomplish His plan of destruction against Israel?

Verses 12-15 give the answer. The reason Assyria will be punished is because of pride and arrogance. The Assyrian king won’t acknowledge that He is subordinate to God and that the Lord was simply using Him as His vessel of discipline. Instead, the Assyrian king will embrace the belief that everything he’s accomplished is because of his superior nature over those whom he’s subjugated.

The king of Assyria will essentially make himself out to be a god as he mentions all the gods he has conquered from the various lands he now controls.

God reminds the listener that Assyria is no different than an ax, a saw or a cane. They are all just instruments that are completely useless unless there is an active agent to employ the tool for its purpose.

Assyria, at one time, WAS the big bad empire bullying all the surrounding nations of the Ancient Near East. WAS! Somewhere between 612 and 605 BC, Assyria was destroyed. They were overtaken by the next big, bad empire – the Babylonians, but not before God fulfilled His promise of using the Assyrians to discipline and punish His people who had forsaken Him.

Reflection

Under what circumstances are you tempted to take credit for actions and outcomes that are ultimately orchestrated by God?

The Assyrians were supplanted by the Babylonians, who were supplanted by the Persians, who were supplanted by the Greeks, who were supplanted by the Romans, etc. Why do you suppose empires come and go? What conditions do you think would be necessary for an empire to last?

What do you think is the difference between pride/arrogance/boasting and confidence and self-assurance? How can you ensure that you’re confident in yourself without being boastful or proud?

 

Photo by Jamil Kabar on Unsplash