Spiritual Motivation

The assembly should highlight the week of every faithful child of God. This period of worship, study, and devotion provides the much-needed focus and spiritual context for life that the world attacks as dull or meaningless. Every gathering offers yet another opportunity to remind ourselves of the extent of God’s interest, the depth of God’s love, and the might of God’s power—all exercised throughout millennia for our personal and eternal benefit. However, even many Christians fail to appreciate this blessing. Some consider it onerous drudgery; some treat it as ritualistic sacrament. Some attend out of duty and obligation; some cannot even seem to manage that. But those who understand the LORD and think about the LORD will always take time to unite and join their hearts together in worship to the LORD. “Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psa. 111:1). Nevertheless, even those who diligently gather can have trouble concentrating and focusing on their purpose. Dinner plans, the score of the game, relationship problems, and worries of day to day life tend to intrude because people rarely plan and prepare their minds for worship even when their bodies are in attendance. This makes the remainder of Psalm 111 even more relevant. An acrostic psalm, the author weaves through the Hebrew alphabet while offering numerous allusions to the proven character of God, with special attention to the Pentateuch. Thus, pointing to the past, the psalmist pictures the steadfastness of the God of the present, giving all readers a series of recommendations that provide motivation to assemble together and worship the LORD and that offer focus as we bow before His throne. Therefore, in preparing yourself for the assembly, give attention to the message of this brief psalm.

  1. Contemplate the power the LORD displayed in creation (Psa. 111:2). Never view the beauty of creation without seeing beyond the physical majesty to the spiritual majesty of the Creator (Psa. 19:1).
  2. Consider how the work of the LORD through His providence contributes positively to life (Psa. 111:3). Whether working through Joseph or Esther, God accomplished great things by using the faithfulness of ordinary people. This should be our goal as those belonging to Him (Phil. 1:21).
  3. Think about how the LORD put His grace and mercy on display in making salvation possible in a way worthy to be remembered. Every day should include thanksgiving for God’s grace displayed in the cross of Jesus Christ, and every remembrance of that love should bring us back together to remember Him as His people (1 Cor. 11:23-29).
  4. Reflect on God’s faithfulness in caring for us (Psa. 111:5). Whether physical or spiritual, the Lord has provided what we need the most (Jas. 1:17; Eph. 1:3; Matt. 6:33).
  5. Ponder how much God did to make a people HIS people (Psa. 111:6). The LORD took a people enslaved in Egypt and made them the nation of Israel. In Christianity He has taken a mass of unrelated individuals and made them His family (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
  6. Study the inspired truth God has revealed (Psa. 111:7-8). The more attention we give God’s Word, the more guidance it offers, the more it unites us, and the greater our reward (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet. 3:18).
  7. Meditate on His majesty and holiness that have made redemption possible (Psa. 111:9). Regardless of all the evil that goes on in this world, God’s plan will prevail; therefore, His will deserves our greatest attention and His Son our every allegiance (Rom. 8:35-39).

If these truths do not motivate us to gather in the assembly and do not help us focus on our Lord while there, we have lost sight of everything God has done. In the end, our motivation to worship should find root in something greater—our motivation to serve and obey the LORD every moment of every day. Therefore, all this reflection should serve as both motivation and means to translate our reverence for God and a knowledge of His will into humble obedience (Psa. 111:10). Many attempt to worship with a passive heart, learn with a passive interest, and live with a passive faith. But a real relationship with God requires more, and that is why God is right to expect more.

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Messianic Meaning

David’s words recorded in Psalm 110 anticipate the Messiah so precisely that his prophetic utterances from this passage formed the foundation of inspired arguments multiple times in the New Testament. As such, they deserve even deeper consideration and explanation because the implications of this single psalm offer powerful testimony to the truth of Christianity in the midst of giving witness regarding Christ Himself. Almost exactly a millennium before their fulfillment, by inspiration the shepherd king of Israel pointed to a Superior and, in so doing, pointed to a superior way.

The opening words, “The LORD said to my Lord” (Psa. 110:1a), establish the Messianic nature of the psalm. David’s acknowledgement of the lordship of another, while reigning as king, by Yahweh’s own declaration, demands recognizing this Lord as his superior—not just a future descendant—as Jesus’ question to the Pharisees demonstrated (Mark 12:36). Beyond that, the statement that follows demonstrates not only His Messianic nature but also His divine identity, for sitting at the right hand of Yahweh puts Him above David, above angels (Heb. 1:13), and in the position of Co-Regent with God (Acts 2:34-36), reigning with the glory of a great battle until He should secure the final victory (1 Cor. 15:25, 55-57).  Thus David noted the coming Messianic rule, imbued with divine authority expressed through divine decree (Psa. 110:2; Matt. 28:18-20), calling out for volunteers to join the cause of the reigning Monarch (Psa. 110:3). However, despite the astounding promise of these first three verses, the next statement delivers an equally powerful prophecy, “The LORD has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psa. 110:4). This simple combination created a whole series of problems for Jewish interpreters. The identity of the Messiah itself baffled them greatly, holding steadfastly to the Descendant of David due to other prophecies while ignoring His promised superiority. However, a descendant of David would come from the tribe of Judah. Nevertheless, this Descendant would also be a priest, declared so in the strongest way possible, as the writer of Hebrews recognized (Heb. 5:5-11; 6:13-18). Yet, this—by necessity—required a change from the Law of Moses to something new since priests came from the tribe of Levi and the household of Aaron (Heb. 7:11-17). Therefore, God having given Him the roles of King, High Priest, and, by implication, Lawgiver, the Messiah would reign at the right hand of God until His will was fulfilled and the final foes’ defeat came to fruition (Psa. 110:5-7).

Thus, this short psalm took the previous promises of the coming Messiah in an unexpected direction. The Messiah would indeed come from the Judaic lineage of David, but He would be greater than David, the founder of the dynasty, though He Himself was a descendant—an untenable position in the ancient mind unless the Son also preceded David, which He did as Deity (John 8:58). Moreover, He would serve as High Priest, consolidating the leadership of God’s people by divine appointment with the implication, though missed, that His rule would also mark the end of the Mosaical Law’s authority and the beginning of His own superior authority. This psalm therefore anticipated some of the most fundamental and foundational doctrines of Christianity regarding the identity of the Messiah, the consolidation of kingship and priesthood, the abolition of the Law of Moses, and the Messiah’s authority to judge not only Israel but everyone. 

This may seem rather mundane centuries after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, but its prophetic power demonstrates that this was always God’s plan, and Jesus lived it to perfection. Christianity hinges on every single one of these principles, and the Holy Spirit offered mankind clues of their coming one thousand years before their fulfillment. Thus, these doctrines of the New Testament are no invention of the apostles but rather an elaboration on the divine purpose, here proven by prophecy.

The Guilt of Accusers

Lies hurt. They hurt the truth, they hurt feelings, and they can hurt reputations. However, when lies turn into accusations and accusations into action, a malicious lie, once believed, can lead people to commit character assassination, outright violence, and even atrocities—and justify it all in the name of a lie. People have little patience today to wait for evidence, and many seem uninterested in facts. The world’s rejection of absolute truth has led the people of the world to find comfort in the relativity of lies. Encouraging worldviews independent of reality has thus led to the proliferation of extremism across the spectrum and its accompanying self-justification. The incivility, division, and vitriol exhibited in society so regularly today characterizes interactions at every level in practically every sphere, whether political, ethnic, social, or even spiritual. Having abandoned the anchor of truth, people have no standard for agreement and no foundation for reconciliation. Hatred, contention, jealousy, anger, and ambition rule the day. However, these problems did not arise recently. They have existed for millennia, even if their current incarnation has a more technological flavor to it. In fact, in the ancient world, trials mainly consisted of accusers attacking and the accused defending himself before a government official. Psalm 109 captures the ageless essence of the issue as David presents this problem in the form of a type of courtroom where he stands as the accused. 

Anyone who steps forward to lead with conviction will face unjust accusations at some point. At that first realization of the severity of the attack and malice underlying it, the heart searches desperately for someone—anyone—to come to its defense (Psa. 109:1). The lying tongues of angry accusers spill out their jealousy and hatred against the innocent to justify themselves, often projecting their own motives, ambitions, and behaviors onto their victim (Psa. 109:2-3). Sadly, many of these attacks come from former friends and associates who feigned love as long as it proved useful but inwardly loved only themselves (Psa. 109:4-5). The situation itself unnerves the righteous as helplessness and indignation swell within. Then a cry for justice calls out: Who will set things right? Never does the path of justice seem clearer than when injustice has visited your doorstep. Therefore, the plea of David before the court calls for true justice, for the false witness to receive the punishment he so desires to be meted out on the object of his lies (Psa. 109:6-20). The details throughout carry a deliberate touch of irony. The accuser should be the accused. The punishment recommended should become the punishment received. The fate of Haman in the book of Esther well reflects the tenor of the passage. However, the final portion of the psalm provides perspective often missing from our own sense of justice. Rather than attempting to manipulate the system or returning evil for evil, the psalm closes by turning to the Lord and trusting Him to make things right. Rather than trusting in our own inherent goodness, which we lack, we should realize our own weakness and thus trust in the LORD (Psa. 109:21-24). Thus, when attacked by others, the faithful will draw nearer to God and place the matter in His hands (Psa. 109:25-27). The greater our confidence in the righteousness of the LORD, the greater our confidence can be that justice will be served—eventually (Psa. 109:28-29). The LORD’s character stands fast; therefore, His people can move forward with confidence when they stand with Him (Psa. 109:30-31). 

However, one verse in this psalm adds an important dimension to our understanding. In Acts 1:20 the apostle Peter quotes from this psalm and applies it to Judas: “Let his days be few, And let another take his office” (Psa. 109:8). The one who delivered Jesus for death ultimately suffered the curse from his own accusations. Our innocent Savior, on the other hand, “‘committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:22–24). The accusations against Jesus make the lies told against us seem small in comparison, but our approach should be the same.

Fighting Valiantly

The character of the psalms as a collection of individual works assembled with deliberate and divine purpose created the possibility of a later psalmist repurposing portions of earlier psalms, with minor adaptations, for use in a different context. David himself did this in applying the words of Psalm 18, penned originally in regard to Saul, to the enemies defeated towards the end of his reign. Similarly, he wrote two versions of  his psalm denouncing the fool who denies God’s existence (Psa. 14 and 53). In Psalm 108, a psalm attributed to David, we find an interesting combination of Psalm 57:7-11 and Psalm 60:5-12. The inspired editor eliminated the material specific to David’s historical situations, the first referring to his danger while hiding in a cave and the second regarding an approaching battle, and then combined them to emphasize how faithfulness to God remains the key to victory in whatever circumstance. Therefore, this newly formed psalm carries the strength not only of David’s trust but also the recognition of God’s positive response as an essential element of its background. It also combines personal protection with corporate deliverance. This combination and the circumstances described likely date the psalm itself as post-exhilic, perhaps formed by Ezra during the events that unfolded in Nehemiah 4, when references to the victories of David and allusions to the promised (and fulfilled) vanquishing of their enemies would bring confidence. Regardless of the timeframe, this hybrid psalm encourages the soul to aspire to great things by trusting God to deliver on His promises.

During times of turmoil and upheaval, when challenges appear on every corner and enemies arise with magic in their hearts, the answer lies neither in compromising with the pressure exerted by the world nor in fleeing before their onslaught but in trusting the God who can protect, guide, and deliver even in the worst of circumstances. Therefore, whatever challenges you currently face, keep a steadfast heart that reaches to the depths of your soul (Psa. 108:1), eliminating all doubt but instead offering all you have from the very moment you wake (Psa. 108:2). While the world may revel in secularism and self, God’s people rise above the influence of their environment to keep their eyes and their hearts firmly attached to the One who rules over all (Psa. 108:3). God is, God is One, and God is interested in us. These truths deserve dedication—not doubt. However, until we see the vast difference between the glory of God and our own need for His mercy, we will never appreciate how much we should trust Him, placing ourselves in His hands with faith in His greatness with a full recognition of the depths of our need (Psa. 108:4-5). Thus, existing as needy creatures, we must acknowledge that we need His deliverance desperately, His salvation completely, and His interest considerably (Psa. 108:6). Indeed, our hope and our joy depends not on what we can accomplish but on what God, in His holiness, has promised (Psa. 108:7-9). For Israel this meant deliverance from their enemies and safety within Canaan, but for God’s people today it encompasses deliverance from sin and safety within the church (Acts 2:38, 47). Only God has the strength, the wisdom, and the power to achieve the victory that all of us need. None of us can do it alone, and no man’s help is sufficient (Psa. 108:10-12). Nevertheless, for those faithful to God, achieving victory exists in both proof and promise, for Jesus brought victory by His death on the cross (Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:55-57). In the apostle John’s words, “Faith is the victory” (1 Jn. 5:4), which makes it a matter of trust. But as Israel of old recognized, trusting God to provide the victory does not eliminate our need to fight (2 Tim. 4:7). Yet the promise for the faithful offers hope even in the face of the greatest of foes (1 Pet. 5:8); therefore, “Through God we will do valiantly, For it is He who shall tread down our enemies” (Psa. 108:13).

The Beauty of Hindsight

From the moment Moses’ original appearance before Pharaoh led to that ruler’s hard hearted crackdown on the family of Jacob, the children of Israel established their spiritual credentials as unappreciative complainers in response to the goodness of the LORD. Even as they came to recognize His power through the ten plagues, their instincts focused on complaining before the Red Sea, complaining in the wilderness, and complaining at the foot of Mount Sinai. After receiving the Law, they complained about the prospect of fighting giants, and even after coming within the confines of Canaan, they complained when events did not turn out as they wished. They had some high points in their history, such as the reign of David, but their history as a nation trudged ever downward—with only a few exceptions—until finally they ended up in Babylonian captivity. Then, after their national humiliation at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of Solomon’s temple, and years of poverty and exile, they received the hope that God had promised all along: they could go home and rebuild. Only then did they begin to appreciate the care and character of the God on High they had ignored. Thus, the reflection of Psalm 107, which begins the Fifth Book of the Psalms, reviews the history of Israel with attention to hindsight, highlighting the lessons Israel should have learned along the way but had not. However, rather than offering a heavy condemnation of their forefathers, the psalmist focused on the goodness and mercy of God throughout. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever: (Psa. 107:1).

In hindsight Israel realized their identity as a needy people redeemed by God, cared for by God, and established by God (Psa. 107:2-7). In hindsight Israel recognized the consequences of their own rebellious behavior and how essential their humiliation proved in awakening them to their spiritual need for the salvation only God provides (Psa. 107:8-14). In hindsight Israel recognized the foolishness of sin and the justice of God’s judgment. In turning to the LORD they finally accepted the saving power of His Word when coupled with faith (Psa. 107:16-20). In hindsight God’s children developed an appreciation for sacrifice, for the joys of serving God, for the benefits of His presence in their lives, and for the hope deliverance offers (Psa. 107:21-30). God had done plenty for them throughout their history, and they finally took the time to see it and thus offer the repeated cry, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psa. 107:31). In hindsight they offered the praise due for centuries, acknowledging God’s providential care and activity throughout all of life and history, especially to their spiritual benefit (Psa. 107:32-42). Therefore, after a millennium of rebellion, of ignorance, and of self-inflicted pain, the children of Israel finally had concluded what God had made available to them all along. Everything God had done for them, everything God required of them, and everything God had said to them was for their benefit and came from the deepest heart of love.

How sad that the most important insight into the character of the LORD would come only after years of obstinacy! And yet how often does that situation repeat itself today? God has showered so much love (Rom. 5:8), so much attention (Heb. 2:5-18), and so much wisdom (Prov. 1:7) on mankind, and yet so many ignore Him, reject Him, and rebel against Him, just like Israel of old. The lessons of truth remain available, for God has made them known (Jn. 8:32; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Unfortunately, the stubbornness of men often holds out, waiting for a worldly option instead of embracing the only saving option we have. Hindsight is 20/20. But do you really want to wait until Judgment Day to learn how much you needed God all along (2 Cor. 5:10)? “Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psa. 107:43).

The Confession of Sin is Good for the Soul

Please forgive us of all of our sins. It is such a simple phrase—uttered time and time again. Those who do so likely mean it sincerely; however, it unquestionably lacks the expression of contrition and appreciation that God deserves. In the closing psalm of Book Four, a section highlighting man’s relationship with God, the psalmist details the rebellious history of Israel as part of a confession on behalf of the nation, a confession that the people would then themselves sing as they reminded one another of the joint spiritual failures of their fathers—a powerful spiritual exercise, to be sure, and one God’s people today would do well to consider. Our confession of sins should take place within the context of God’s own character, a reflection on the goodness and mercy that gives any meaning to confession (Psa. 106:1). Confession ought to focus on what God has done to make salvation possible (Psa. 106:2) and on the righteousness He expects of His people—and on how we have failed Him (Psa. 106:3). Confession remains incomplete without meditation on the grace that offers the opportunity (Psa. 106:4) and that makes hope still possible (Psa. 106:5). Indeed, any request for forgiveness removed from the context of God’s character and personal introspection lacks the spiritual heart God Himself intended. “We have sinned with our fathers, We have committed iniquity, We have done wickedly” (Psa. 106:6). Moreover, the psalmist’s subsequent listing of the sins of the nation demonstrates how important it is for man to reflect on the whole of his existence and failures rather than on just the most recent occurrence, because this helps us see the patterns of rebellion that plague us and the longsuffering of God that makes it possible for Him to forgive us again. 

Israel rebelled even before they left Egypt because they failed to appreciate the deliverance God was making possible (Psa. 106:7), but God demonstrated His own character in responding to their sin with an opportunity they did not deserve, which they, in the moment, embraced (Psa. 106:8-12; Rom. 5:8-9). In the wilderness they thought only of themselves and not God and thus tested Him (Psa. 106:13-14), and yet He proved Himself and His care once again (Psa. 106:15). They rebelled against the leadership He established (Psa. 106:16) and were judged as a result (Psa. 106:17-18). At the foot of Sinai they turned away from the God who delivered them and turned back to the idolatry of Egypt (Psa. 106:19-22); only Moses’ pleading kept them from destruction (Psa. 106:23). Faith failed them when they spied out the land (Psa. 106:24-25), so the first generation died in the wilderness (Psa. 106:26-27). They fell into paganism and immorality with the Midianites (Psa. 106:28) and suffered a plague as a result (Psa. 106:29) until Phinehas rose to oppose the sin (Psa. 106:30-31). Their grumbling at the lack of water grew so virulent that a frustrated Moses responded rashly and was thus kept out of Canaan (Psa. 106:32-33). They failed to destroy the Canaanites but instead compromised their identity with them (Psa. 106:34-38), and God responded by letting them feel the consequences of their own decision (Psa. 106:39-40)—time and time again until ultimately sending them into captivity (Psa. 106:41-46). Their history of rebellion was all too real, and they needed to acknowledge it—just like we do.

However, in the closing verses, the true beauty of the psalm shines forth. As we turn to God for salvation, He still will listen (Psa. 106:47a). As we offer our thanks and our praise once more, He hears our cries (Psa. 106:47b). All of this—the character of God, our history of sinfulness, and divine longsuffering—should teach us to grow in appreciation for our God more and more everyday. For He alone deserves our allegiance, because He alone is truly faithful. Therefore, He deserves for us to recognize all that He has done and praise Him with all our heart (Psa. 106:48). It is hard to capture all of this in one easy throwaway phrase. And we should not try.

A Personal God

When I peruse the religious landscape of America, it sometimes baffles me how people can claim to read the Bible, love the Bible, and follow the Bible while remaining completely oblivious to the true nature of the God of the Bible. Some see only a harsh, judging God who destroyed the peoples of Canaan, punished people for their rebellion, and allowed Israel to endure the destruction of their homeland and years in captivity. Others only see the loving God whose grace sent Jesus to the cross for the sins of mankind (John 3:16). The apostle Paul emphasized that both of these descriptions apply to God but should be viewed together in a balanced way (Rom. 11:22). However, more than this, some have allowed their view of Christianity to rely on ritual and habit rather than heart and commitment. Theologians then offer a doctrinal interpretation of God as if Yahweh can be parsed and defined like goodness or atonement. And while all these fall under the purview of God, appreciating how they unite together to provide guidance and hope both in this life and beyond this life is where we find the true meaning of all that God has done for us. 

Indeed, when we turn to Psalm 105 and consider both its placement within this inspired collection and its content, we should be humbled in both our understanding of the LORD and our appreciation for what He has done. Our God is not some impersonal deity who formed this world and then abandoned His creation. To the contrary, the LORD has supreme interest in every aspect of our lives, and He has acted accordingly to make a relationship with Him possible. Therefore, He not only established the laws of nature by His providence but then brought man into a covenant relationship with Him. Moreover, we can see this not only in the love displayed in Jesus in the New Testament but even in His care demonstrated in the Old. For this reason the psalmist could encourage the people to worship God, talk about all that He has done, give Him glory, rejoice, and seek Him diligently (Psa. 105:1-6). Everything that God has done is designed to draw us back to Him so that we can say, “He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth” (Psa. 105:7).

The LORD established His covenant of both the promised seed and the land of Canaan, renewed it in successive generations, and ultimately fulfilled it (Psa. 105:8-11). When Israel was but an insignificant family, wandering with other nomads throughout the land, He protected them from harm in keeping with His covenant (Psa. 105:12-15; Gen. 20). In His providence, He used the anger and sin of Joseph’s brothers ultimately to bring about their own provision, raising Joseph up from a slave and a prisoner to the viceroy of the Pharaoh (Psa. 105:16-22). The LORD then turned Jacob’s family into such a multitude that their Egyptian hosts grew to fear them (Psa. 105:23-25) and then enslave them, but God had greater plans for them. He sent Moses, and Aaron with him, to bring them out of bondage so He could fulfill His covenant, sending plagues upon the Egyptians as both proof and punishment for them and proof of His fidelity to His covenant(Psa. 105:26-36). He took a nation of slaves and gave them wealth, challenged a mighty nation and brought them to their knees, guided His people day and night, and gave them food and water as they had need (Psa. 105:37-41). He did all these things to keep the covenant He made with Abraham and with the design that the people would then keep the covenant with Him (Psa. 105:42-45).

God keeps promises to His people. God protects His people. God provides for His people. God prepares His people. God proves His faithfulness time and time again. God prevails over all worldly obstacles. God makes all good things possible. He provides personal care with personal attention out of very personal love for all of His creation (Rom. 5:8-9). Why? Because He wants us to respond to Him personally with loving obedience (John 14:15). The LORD is a personal God, and that is why we should take what He has done for us personally.

Providence at Work

Psalm 104 opens with the same phrase that began the previous psalm, “Bless the LORD, O my soul!” In fact, the same phrase appears in the final verse of both psalms as well. Thus, they are linked not only by their proximity but also by their form. However, the connection grows even stronger when we examine their contents. A quick comparison of the wording found in Psalm 103:20-21 and Psalm 104:4 is sufficient to demonstrate that the latter psalm picks up the same theme introduced in Psalm 103:19-22 as if it were too grand a thought to treat so sparsely. And I must agree. In a world that worships at the altar of scientific arrogance coupled with philosophical nonsense, Psalm 104 offers a gentle reminder that a majestic Creator not only made the heavens and the earth but also provided a means to sustain it for as long as needed to fulfill its purpose as the home of those made in the image of God.

The psalmist presents creation as the royal robe of the King of kings (Psa. 104:1-2), a fitting metaphor signifying the grandeur of the One one who reigns, and then proceeds to describe creation in all its glory. Nature did not work itself out through millennia, but the LORD established the interaction of heat from the sun, air in the atmosphere, and water throughout to create the phenomena we see displayed in the weather, all carried on through God’s providence, as the role of angels makes clear (Psa. 104:2-4). While the LORD created the earth as the ideal environment for man, the subsequent flood of Noah changed its landscape and atmosphere tremendously. Nevertheless, the LORD’s care continued, causing the floodwaters to abate, the storms to retreat, and the rainbow to come as a reminder of the finality of that form of judgment as well as His promised future care (Psa. 104:5-9)—providence. The LORD ensured that water now would nourish the ground and quench the thirst of all His creation (Psa. 104:10-13). Through the LORD’s providence, He provided food for all creation, both for animals and men, as well the means for shelter (Psa. 104:14-18). His providence gave night, with the moon for light and opportunity for nocturnal animals to find their food (Psa. 104:19-21), and then gave day so man can see to do his work (Psa. 104:22-23). The oceans and seas are home to countless other creatures, but the LORD cares for them as well (Psa. 104:24-29). Indeed, His providence ensures their ongoing life (Psa. 104:30). Then, in earnest, the psalmist, building to a crescendo, moves His focus to man, just as God did the week of creation when He declared finally with the creation of both man and woman that it was very good (Psa. 104:31). But man needs guidance, prompting the psalmist’s allusion to the giving of the Law on Sinai (Psa. 104:32), and for this attention and care—a care that extends beyond the realm of nature to embrace the soul and eternity—we should respond with reverent worship in praise to the God (Psa. 104:33) and fill our minds with His will so that our lives might please Him, bring us joy, and avoid the judgment of those who ignore the One to Whom they owe so much (Psa. 104:34-35).

“Bless the LORD, O my soul!” This simple phrase declares the adoration due to the One who made us—a love born out of dependence, nurtured through life, and matured into an eternal relationship, a relationship that extends to the depths of the soul. The realization that only God could be responsible for the existence of man and the entire universe demands the conclusion and exclamation, “O LORD my God, You are very great.” But He deserves so much more, because He has done so much more. The LORD is not simply our Creator, but also our Provider. He not only provides for our bodies but also for our spirits. Our God sees in us the possibilities of eternity, and for this we should respond with adoration, “Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!“ (Psa. 104:35b).

What Do You Really Need?

I do not know when the idea of “finding yourself” came into vogue, but it surely has had a negative impact on how people see themselves. It usually causes people to focus on what they selfishly want while ignoring how much they actually need, as well as what they ought to be. As a result, people have begun to define themselves solely by the extent of their worldly ambitions rather than by the reality of the human condition. However, Psalm 103 offers a powerful corrective to this by redirecting attention away from self and toward the LORD to establish a spiritual perspective about life that should guide our ambitions while also comforting our spirit.

Life offers such great opportunity for personal growth, achievement, and freedom, but sadly many use the opportunities God has provided to rebel against Him and try to push Him out of their lives. Regardless, we need the LORD—more than we often realize. We need the LORD’s life-giving provision (Psa. 103:1-5). The blessings He provides mankind point to the core of mankind’s own limitations. We need the LORD’s forgiveness because we have sinned against the LORD’s will. We need His care because the human body is fragile. We need hope because life leads to destruction. We need God’s love because without it we could have none of the good things we tend to take for granted in life. More than that, we need the LORD’s righteous guidance (Psa. 103:6-8). He alone understands true justice and acts without any partiality. He has revealed His will because we need moral direction. He has shown us the greatest of character in all His interaction with His creation. And we needed Him to do so. We need the LORD’s bountiful mercy (Psa. 103:9-13). We need Him to be patient and longsuffering with us or else we could not repent and grow. We need forgiveness so desperately, especially in light of His justice, and His grace and mercy He has extended to make that possible. O how we need God! We need the LORD’s hopeful promises (Psa. 103:14-19). As our Creator, God knows our limitations, our frailty, and our futility, and we need to learn the same. We need to remember that life is short but eternity is long. We need to learn not to allow the pleasure of the moment to dictate the destiny of the soul. We need to recognize just how much we need God in our lives now so that we will be with God in eternity. We need to see into eternity and appreciate mercy, to view the majesty of the LORD and reverence Him, and to appreciate the revelation of His will so that we can obey it. The LORD is greater than life and greater than death. He reigns in heaven and beyond. But we need to let Him reign in our lives. The more we see happening in the world around us, the more we should see our need for the LORD’s providential care (Psa. 103:20-22). He does not work miracles through men any longer upon this earth, but through His providence He still exercises lordship over all His creation, using angels to carry out His will in the realm of nature, and this gives great confidence and meaning to prayer.

You need God. You need God to live. You need God to thrive. You need God to know right and wrong. You need God to know love. You need God to forgive. You need to know God. So many people are trying to find themselves in this mixed up world. Instead, what they really need is to look into the scriptures and find God.

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