Psalm 105

Psalm 105 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”

12 When they were but few in number,
    few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
    for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
    do my prophets no harm.”

16 He called down famine on the land
    and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
    Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
    his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
    till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
    the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
    ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he pleased
    and teach his elders wisdom.

23 Then Israel entered Egypt;
    Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24 The Lord made his people very fruitful;
    he made them too numerous for their foes,
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people,
    to conspire against his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
    and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
    his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made the land dark—
    for had they not rebelled against his words?
29 He turned their waters into blood,
    causing their fish to die.
30 Their land teemed with frogs,
    which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
    and gnats throughout their country.
32 He turned their rain into hail,
    with lightning throughout their land;
33 he struck down their vines and fig trees
    and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
    grasshoppers without number;
35 they ate up every green thing in their land,
    ate up the produce of their soil.
36 Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land,
    the firstfruits of all their manhood.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
    and from among their tribes no one faltered.
38 Egypt was glad when they left,
    because dread of Israel had fallen on them.

39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
    and a fire to give light at night.
40 They asked, and he brought them quail;
    he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed like a river in the desert.

42 For he remembered his holy promise
    given to his servant Abraham.
43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
    his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
    and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
45 that they might keep his precepts
    and observe his laws.

Praise the Lord.

Today’s passage is all about worship, about giving glory to God.  The psalmist uses the history of the Jewish nation to offer praise and worship to Almighty God.

The psalmist presents the following historical synopsis:

  • Introduction and call to worship, remembering their history (vv. 1 – 7)
  • God’s covenant with the patriarchs (vv. 8 – 11)
  • God’s care of them while they were wanderers without a home (vv. 12 – 15)
  • God’s provision of His people through Joseph (vv. 16 – 22)
  • God’s blessings while in Egypt and rescue from Egypt (vv. 23 – 38)
  • God’s protection and provision while in the desert (vv. 39 – 41)
  • God’s fulfillment of His Promised Land (vv. 42 – 45)

The psalmist copied the first 15 verses of this psalm from King David’s instructions for worship when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the tent of meeting (1 Chronicles 16, specifically vv. 8-22).

May you and I meditate on this marvelous history of God’s Providence toward His people, thanking Him for keeping His promises and being faithful to them despite their many failures.

And may we remember that the same God who protected and provided for His people is also the same God who protects and provides for us.

As you and I review and write down our respective family histories, may we see God’s love, favor, and Providence to protect and preserve us and bring us to Himself through His Son Jesus.

As we recall God’s blessings and tell our future generations of His goodness, may we bow in thankfulness and worship, giving glory to Him, who holds us in His hand.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 84

Psalm 84 (NIV)

For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
    look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

What a wondrous Psalm, capturing the heart of a family dedicated to serving the Lord!

The sons of Korah were from the tribe of Levi, set apart for serving the Lord.  King David and Samuel the Prophet appointed various members of Korah’s descendants to be in charge of:

  • music
  • guarding the temple itself (doorkeepers)
  • guarding the storehouses inside the temple
  • baking the ceremonial bread
  • mixing the spices for the celebrations

These were just a few of their duties (1 Chronicles 6:31-47, 1 Chronicles 9:17-34).

In this Psalm, we see a tremendous sense of community, of various members working together to bring honor and glory to the Lord in their assigned and everyday roles.

This Psalm seems to be a personal lament of one of these descendants while they are away from the temple.  The text does not indicate the reason why the person is separated (sickness, official duties requiring travel, being held hostage by enemies, etc.).

In verses 1 – 2, the psalmist does not desire to be in the temple for the sake of being in a particular building.  The psalmist yearns to be where God is, where God dwells, to be in God’s presence, in God’s community.  In the Old Testament, that place was the temple.

In verses 3 – 5, the psalmist laments that even the lowliest of the birds are closer to the Lord (and thus more blessed) than he is.  The psalmist sees the tremendous blessing in finding a road back to the temple; it is his heart’s desire and his mission – his pilgrimage.

In verses 6 – 7, the psalmist says that even having to pass through times of heartbreak (the Valley of Tears) is worth it to be back in God’s presence.  Each step closer to the temple gives the psalmist strength to move forward and complete the pilgrimage.

In verses 8 – 9, the psalmist asks for God’s help to finish the journey; he knows he cannot complete it in his power and by his will.

In verse 10, the psalmist says it would even be better to be a doorkeeper who stands outside the temple, never entering in, than to be anywhere else.  Being in God’s presence is the best place of all.

The psalmist concludes by giving praise and worship to the Lord (verses 11 – 12).

The Lord does not dwell in tents or temples any longer; as followers of Christ, He resides in our hearts and souls.

May we have the psalmist’s same desire to be close to the Lord, to throw aside any encumbrance that keeps us from being in constant community with Him.

Wherever we find ourselves, may we make it our pilgrimage, our sole purpose, to find our way home and walk with Him for the remainder of our days.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 25

Psalm 25 (NIV)

Of David.

In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.

I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
    toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
    forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
    He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
    and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
    he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
    for only he will release my feet from the snare.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
    and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
    and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
    because my hope, Lord, is in you.

22 Deliver Israel, O God,
    from all their troubles!

As I take a few days to regroup for our next study, I am led in the interim to the Psalms as a place of solace and worship, reminding me of my total dependence on the Lord.

I am grateful for King David, the man after God’s heart.  His relationship with the Lord and his worship are great examples for me to learn and practice.

David reminds us that we can put our trust in the Lord alone – not the Lord plus something or someone else.  The Lord is sufficient for all our needs and desires – He does not need our help or for us to prop Him up with our efforts.

I love how David sees God confiding in those who have a deep respect and holy reverence for Him (v. 14).  And what does God reveal to us who walk with Him?  His sorrows? No.  His fears?  No, as God fears nothing and no one.  God confides His covenant, His love letter, His overflowing joy and promise to His children.

May we abide in Christ, as the branches abide in the vine and cannot survive without the vine’s life-giving nourishment (John 15:1-17).

May we ask less from the Lord and seek more of the Lord as we draw closer to Him in relationship and friendship and reverence.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 21:20-25

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
(John 21:20-25 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, Jesus encourages Peter to care for His flock of followers, even if it costs Peter his life.  Jesus goes on to tell Peter that he would die via crucifixion, just as Jesus had died, and his death would glorify God.  Jesus leaves Peter with two simple words:  “Follow Me!”.

In today’s passage, Jesus and Peter are still having their conversation.  Jesus and Peter are likely taking a walk up and down the beach as they talk.  Peter possibly hears something and turns to see John trailing along behind them.  Peter asks Jesus what will become of John.  Jesus tells Peter not to worry about John and turns the conversation back to Peter:  “You must follow Me.”

John clears up the rumor about what Jesus said about him.  Jesus did not promise that John would not die; Jesus said that John’s fate was none of Peter’s concern.  Historians say that Jesus did live to be about 100 years old, so he outlived all the other disciples.

John reminds us that this is his written testimony, and it is true.  John’s Gospel is not a biography of Jesus’ life, but rather, John’s first-hand experiences with Jesus.  John has recorded these events to show us that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God come to give His life for us so that we might spend eternity with Him.

John concludes his Gospel on a somewhat wistful note, wishing that he could write more about Jesus.  John writes that there is so much more that could be said about Jesus – so much, in fact, that the world could not hold the books that would tell His story.

As we conclude the Gospel of John, I pray that this has been a journey worthy of your time, to enter into deeper relationship with the Word made flesh, Who dwelt among humanity.

May John’s intent and desire be true in each of our lives:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:31 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

John 21:15-19

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
(John 21:15-19 NIV)

Yesterday we looked at the third time Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after His resurrection.  Peter decided to go fishing, and some of the other disciples went with him.  After fishing all night and catching nothing, someone on shore tells them to try the other side of the boat.  They catch so many fish that there can only be one explanation – it’s the Lord on the shore who was calling out to them!

Jesus has prepared a simple breakfast of bread and roasted fish for the disciples.  They eat and likely talk about what is happening and what will come next.

As we pick up today’s passage, breakfast is over, and Jesus has a chat with Peter.  Traditionally, this passage is considered the time when Jesus forgives Peter and restores him to ministry after Peter denied Jesus three times.

While this restoration view may fit nicely into a matching story (three denials, three renewals), I think there is more going on here that what naturally meets the eye.

Two other passages need to be considered:  Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, particularly verse 4.  In both of these passages, the authors document that Jesus met with Peter separately and privately, before He met with the other disciples.

If Peter had not been restored at this point, why would he have jumped out of the boat and swam one hundred yards to shore to see Jesus?  Peter’s reaction would likely have been much more like his first response to meeting Jesus in Luke 5:1-11, where Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v. 8).

I believe Jesus restored Peter to ministry when they met privately as noted in the Luke 24 and 1 Corinthians 15 passages.  That makes today’s section all about Jesus’ encouragement to persevere in caring for those that would be in Peter’s care.

We see Peter passing along this same admonition to the church elders in 1 Peter 5:1-4:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
(1 Peter 5:1-4 NIV)

A second reason that this vignette is an encouragement and not a restoration is verses 18 – 19 where Jesus tells Peter how he will die.  If this scene were a restoration, Jesus’ comments to Peter would need to be understood as punishment and reparation for Peter’s three denials of Christ.  If we see this passage as encouragement, then Jesus is telling Peter not to be afraid to serve Him wholeheartedly, even when faced with death by crucifixion.

May we be inspired and strengthened by these passages, both Jesus’ encouragement to Peter, and Peter’s encouragement to the early church fathers.

Truly there is joy in serving Jesus, even when the consequences are life and death.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 21:1-14

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
(John 21:1-14 NIV)

In the previous passages, Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples on two different occasions roughly a week apart.  The disciples are overjoyed that Jesus has risen from the dead.

In today’s passage, we see the third time Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples after He had risen from the dead (v. 14).

Seven of the disciples were together near the Sea of Galilee.  Peter announces that he is going fishing; the others volunteer to go with him.  We don’t know why Peter decided to go fishing – the text does not say.  He could have been bored, needed to get out of the house, wanted to provide food for the crew, or possibly needed the income.

In any case, Peter and the crew fish all night and catch nothing.  Early in the morning, someone on shore calls out and asks them if they have caught anything.  When the reply is “no”, the person says to try on the other side of the boat.  Instantly, they catch so many fish that they can’t even haul the nets into the vessel.

John recalls the morning that Jesus called them as disciples (Luke 5:1-11).  They had been out all night fishing and had caught nothing.  When Jesus was in the boat, He told them to lower their nets again.  When they did, they caught more fish than they could bring in.  This time was nearly identical.  When John has the “aha!” moment, he blurts out, “It is the Lord!”

As soon as Peter hears John say it is Jesus, he grabs his coat, jumps in the water, and swims to shore.  Peter can’t wait to see the Lord again.  John and the others follow in the boat, pulling in the net full of fish.

Jesus made a fire and fed the disciples breakfast.  The menu?  Fish and bread, reminiscent of the feeding of the masses.  On a cold morning, after having been up all night, and seeing Jesus again, this is a shore breakfast they would never forget.

Verse 12 appears at first to be a “given” – of course; it was Jesus!  Like Thomas’ doubt before, the disciples were still in wonder and awe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  This meeting was not a dream – this was real.

May we have the same excitement each morning to dive in and meet with the Lord.  While He does not prepare us an actual breakfast, He does offer us spiritual food.

Will we take the time to eat, to nourish ourselves with His Word?

Blessings,
~kevin

John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:19-31 NIV)

In the last two passages, John tracks Mary Magdalene as she discovers the horrific sight of the empty tomb, and later, her inexpressible joy of meeting Jesus face-to-face.

In today’s passage, John is still focused on the first day of the week, when Mary discovered Jesus’ empty tomb, then met Jesus in person.  John notes that it was evening time, likely after the evening meal and sunset.  If we compare notes with the other three Gospels, this would have taken place after Jesus’ encounter with the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

John notes that the disciples were locked in a house somewhere, for fear of the Jewish leaders.  In the Luke 24 passage, Luke records that the two men did not stay in Emmaus, but hurried back to Jerusalem to report that they had seen the Lord.  Luke records that while the two men were recounting their experience to the disciples, Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst.  John’s Gospel picks up at this point.

John records that Jesus appears and greets everyone.  Jesus does not identify Himself by His face, but by the scars in His hands and side.  Remember what Jesus said in Chapter 16, verses 20-22?  The disciples would weep and mourn when Jesus went away, but He would appear to them, and they would then have everlasting joy.  This first encounter with Jesus is that joyous moment that Jesus promised.

In verses 21 – 22, Jesus then commissions His disciples and symbolically gives them the Holy Spirit.  They are to go and share the good news of Jesus, just as the Father had sent Jesus.  The disciples are to go forth with God’s power and authority.

Verse 23 is a warning, not a promise.  The disciples were to forgive, just as Jesus had forgiven their sins.  The Jewish Law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth had been fulfilled.  The new command was love and forgiveness.  If the disciples did not proclaim and offer Christ’s forgiveness and live it out in their daily lives, then Jesus says that no one would hear the message.

John records that Thomas was not with the disciples the night that Jesus appeared to them.   He did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and wanted to see it for himself.  A week later, Jesus appears again, and Thomas is with the disciples.  Jesus does not chastise Thomas, but in a light-hearted moment, offers Thomas the chance to examine His wounds and scars first-hand.  Thomas simply replies in worship: “My Lord and My God!”

In verse 29, Jesus offers a invocation to all who have not seen Jesus’ resurrected body and have believed in Him.  That blessing includes you and me.

In verses 30 – 31, John reminds us that these events are just a sample of what Jesus did while on earth, and why he wrote this Gospel.  Remember that the Gospels are not biographies of Jesus’ life – they are testimonies.  And as testimonies, they are evidence to point to Christ as Messiah and trust in Him as Lord, so that we may have eternal life with Him.

May we rejoice with the disciples that Jesus is alive, resurrected from the dead and alive forevermore.  And may we heed Jesus’ warning to live out the forgiveness we have in Him, visibly demonstrating what He has done for us as we point others to Him.

Blessings,
~kevin