The Who, What, Where, When of Halal

A devotion on Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.

WHAT & WHO: Halal Jah!

Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord. 2 Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.

BY WHOM: Servants – abad– are laborers who work for another. Servants literally or figuratively till and may be enslaved in bond-service. Even as bondmen, the abad are to praise or halal Jah.

HOW: Remember that to halal means to shine, to flash forth light, to boast and glory in, to rave, to celebrate, to make a show, to act madly. So we are invited as slaves of Jehovah, because of whose we are and because of the glorious service in which we are involved, to do some crazy celebrating. Just dance like a little kid.

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We are to make a show of his name and commend it greatly to those around us. We are to boast of it and brandish it like a flashing doodad, We are to brandish it clamorously. We are to make some noise and cause a commotion. Folks a’ gotta know there’s something goin’ on here! The more we know him, the more there is to love and celebrate so we will carry on with this spree from now till the vanishing point of the future.

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.

WHEN: As the children’s song goes, we are to halal Jah “all the live long day.” From the time he rouses us from deep slumber with the brilliance of his sunlight, we are to reflect that light and project it with our halal. We laborers are as those in a parade whose job from sun-up till sun-down is to be about this praise business. We are like a broken record, only it’s broken to the most amazing tunes. The world is hungry for it. Serve it. we are to serve it no matter what the day brings. Good and bad, halal is a fitting response. In the sunrise of our lives when we are young and full of life and as our lives prepare to set we can move just as nimbly if halal has been our lifelong anthem. We can be as our spiritual ancestor. “Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished,” Deut. 34:7. Those are the amazing spiritual genes we have. Someone flash a halal Jah!

The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?

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Jah is a contraction for Jehovah – I Am. He is the self-existent one who does not need us. He has no need of food or a father or a mother. He has no need of a job or a nap or a skill. He doesn’t need education or a doctor or a friend. Everything I need, he has never needed in his entire existence. He is everything he needs. He is higher than anything in all creation. He is high above all things. “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen,” Rom. 11:36. He is unique and all others pale and bow in his presence.

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But O, this mighty king wants us. He wants to call us friends and to treat us as such. He desires to engage with us, to thrill us. He wants for us to know him and to fall in love with him. We learned in the last couple of lessons that he is tender and compassionate and stoops down to where we are and embraces us there. He constantly deigns to love us. “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,” Heb. 11:2.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.

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Jah has regard for the down trodden and the hurting. For that reason, he works miracles for those who most humans have no use. When life banishes them face-down in the dust or in the ash-heap, spent and discarded, left for dead, along comes our valiant savior in answer to their cry. They call, he answers. They call, he answers. He holds their dirty bodies close in comfort, then he sets them on their feet, cleans them up and regales them in princely garb and in positions of honor.

He hears the cry of the destitute woman and settles her in her home. He hears the cry of the hungry womb and works the miracle of life within it and the pitter-patter of happy little feet squealing in delight. What has he done for you lately?

Halal Jah!

Lavish Lavish

A devotional on Psalm 112

Note the repetitions in some of the Hebrew words for emphasis to show depth or longevity.

1 Praise the Lord.

Halal Jah!

Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.

Are you one of those, beloved? Does the mention of his name cause shockwaves of immense awe and dread all at once? Do his commands thrill you, delight you, elate you? Do you incline to, bow down, and submit to them? If so, then you are blessed – esher – great happiness is yours. We think that happiness is getting or doing what we want and being comfortable. That is incorrect. Happiness or blessedness is in fearing God and in pursuing and obeying his commands delightfully. Grand promises are outlined for this person.

If you have no visceral response to God and are lackluster about his commands I beg you to ask Holy Spirit to spark a fire of passion in this most important area of your life. Then speak and do words and works to foster that and to grow deeply in love with this tornado.

2 Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

The seed of the blessed will be mighty – gibbor gibbor – warriors, overcomers, very powerful, champions, valiant, and prevailing. Wow! Speak that over each of your children today. By implication, if you fear Jah and delight in his commands you are called upright (– Yashar – right, straight, level, righteous, smooth, straightforward, pleasant, prosperous) and your generation will be blessed by your presence and your legacy. You can die happy, knowing that your work here is done.

3 Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.

Wealth – hon – means sufficiency, enough, things of high value; to be ready, to consider as easy; vigor, generative power, successful effort, might, strength, ability. Riches – osher – means to accumulate, to grow rich. These things are in their houses – bayith – meaning their bodies, their dwellings, and their family; anything they build and repair. Righteousness – tsedaqah – means to be just in conduct and in character.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

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Light – or – illumination, happiness, prosperity, to be made luminous – shall be our heritage. This light is dramatically radiated or shot forth as beams and rises up even in the dark – choshek – amidst misery, ignorance, death, and sorrow. What a wonderful promise for

  • the gracious – chanan – who stoop in kindness to an inferior, favor
  • those full of compassion – rachum – the merciful, those who love deeply; having tender affection
  • the righteous – tsaddiyq – the just and lawful; those vindicated by God.

KJV 5 A good man shows favor and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Good  – tob –  means pleasant, appropriate, rich, valuable, beautiful, ready. This person consistently exhibits favor– chanan – which flashes back to gracious as we just studied. Lends – lavah – has an interesting connotation of uniting or twining oneself; causing to borrow. He doesn’t just dispense, he invests. This may mean he is approachable to be asked to lend on top of being equipped and stocked for the lending. He gives with heart.

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To guide – kul – means to measure, calculate, maintain, sustain, support, endure. It also means to feed, to provide sustenance. Affairs – dabar – mean speech, words, declarations, utterance as well as actions and business. Discretion – mishpat – means judgement, decision, sentence, verdict, reason. We see that a good man thinks through and calculates his words and actions. He is decisive, wise, and declarative. He uses measured words that feed others and provide sustenance because he knows that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” Proverbs 18:21.

This good man is invested in those he ‘lends’ to and he continues to support and sustain them with his words and actions. Frequently this will not mean that he enables them as doles out favors. He is discreet and also knows that sometimes to say no is the best love.

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.

7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

They will not be moved. They will not totter or slip or shake or fall. They will not be dislodged. They will be remembered – zeker zeker – commemorated, scented, recorded, made mention of, still thought of. And that forever – olam olam – for a long time; from the vanishing point of the past and that of the future; eternity, perpetuity. “I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life;   you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand,” Psalm 16:8-11.

9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor.

While their thinking and dealings are very calculated, their gifting to the poor is lavish. It is a scattering. It is generous. It is broad and far-reaching. It is freely done and not with constraint or worry or anxiety.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD— the benefit of his gift will return to him in abundance,”

Proverbs 19:17

Their horn –qeren – is figurative for height, power, and defense. Interestingly, it’s root word – qaran – means to shine or send out rays. Revisit verse four and the matter of light. It will be exalted in honor – kabod kabod – glory, abundance, splendor, reverence, dignity, copiousness, reputation, riches, weightiness.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

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Halal Yah!

A devotional on Psalm 111 using the Lexham English Bible, LEB.

1 Praise Yah! I will give thanks to Yahweh with all [my] heart, in [the] assembly of [the] upright and [the] congregation.

Verse 1 calls us, as David frequently does to halal Yah. Do you see the word “hallelujah” embedded there? Isn’t that splendid! Halal is a vigorous term meaning to boast and glory in; to flash forth light or shine (symbolizing God’s favor); to make into a fool or to act like a madman. There are many ways in which we act the fool – we are being invited to act the fool for Yah. Drop your guard, drop your persona, divest yourself of everything you are and just let it go for Jesus.

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In the assembly of those who love him and who he loves, I will thank – yadah – God. This is a literal gesture of hurling or throwing something like a stone or an arrow. It is to revere and worship with extended hands. Throw him your thanks, throw him your confession, throw him his names. Those are powerful weapons you have in your hands. Use them!

This gesture is to be done not only willingly but with all my heart. This entails three areas, first with all of my will. His praise is my primary desire, drive, and motivation. Secondly with all my intellect. This includes all my alertness, focus, planning, initiative, problem-solving, imagination and creativity, learning, comprehension, and memory, and numerous other cognitive processes. Third, I am to employ my emotions. I must let his works move me. Do they awe me, thrill me, scintillate me or am I blind and insensitive to them? Is my heart tender and receptive to what my senses observe or is it calloused and shrouded by the cares of the world?

2 The works of Yahweh [are] great, studied by all [who] delight [in] them.

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God is a working God. He always has been and always will be. He is forever creating, moving, building, tearing down, defending, saving, loving, showing himself strong. His great works are worthy of our study. We are to look into them, to consult them; ask for, require and even demand them; we are to seek them with care and diligence. We are to frequent them. We are to tread there and follow them since we find pleasure in them. We are they that delight in and long for these valuable works. They are our desire, our purpose.

3 [Full of] splendor and majesty [is] his work, and his righteousness endures forever.

The work of his hands is splendid and majestic, it is honorable and glorious. His justice or righteousness is forever and forever because he is the Everlasting Father. Justice or righteousness is his mantle and one of his primary defining features.

4 He has made his wonders {to be remembered}; Yahweh [is] gracious and compassionate.

We need to remember his wonders so that the awe and fear of him propels us forward in a world that seeks to hold us back and dampen our faith. We need to hear of these wonders and to ponder them. Holy Spirit within us will point them out, will draw our remembrance to them, and help us delight in recounting them.

Gracious – channun –  means to show or direct favor; to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior. Compassion – rachum – means to love deeply with tender affection, to fondle; to have pity and mercy.

5 He gives food to those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.

Food – taraph – means something plucked or torn to pieces. It is the same thing we do for our children when we cut up their food so they can ingest it better, otherwise they would starve on their highchair with a hunk of beef sitting in front of them. As we grow in the fear, reverence, terror, and dread of him we see him more clearly and then marvel at his care over us as a helpless child, so loved, so delighted in forever and ever.

LEB 6 He has declared the power of his works for his people, by giving to them [the] inheritance of [the] nations.

KJV 6 He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.

God, in his sovereignty, is a choosing God. Based on his works, you want to be his friend. “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life,” Isaiah 43:4.

“Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion, for I will give you horns of iron; I will give you hooves of bronze, and you will break to pieces many nations.” You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of all the earth,”

Micah 4:13.

It doesn’t bode so well for his enemies. Choose wisely. Halal Yah!!

7 The works of his hands [are] faithfulness and justice; all his precepts [are] reliable.

God consistently wrights works of faithfulness or verity – emeth – meaning firmness, reliability, stability, certainty, establishment. Justice – mishpat – speaks to his rightness in decision-making, in a proper and fitting manner. His mandates are also reliable – aman­ – meaning sure, firm, and confirmed. It paints the picture of a foster parent or a nurse who is faithful and trustworthy to bring you up and establish you, to turn you to the right. This action has a time factor built into it. It is for the long haul. You will not be booted from the system or this new family for bad behavior. They won’t tire of you and decide you are not for them after all. Your nurse is committed to you and your good outcome.

LEB 8 [They are] sustained forever [and] ever, done with faithfulness and uprightness.

KJV 8 They stand fast for ever and ever and are done in truth and uprightness.

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These works stand fast and bear up under the test of time. Our devotionals on Ethan bear that out. This verse reiterates the time factor. God is the Rock of Ages and so his works are faithful through the ages. He holds them up and nothing can shake them! They are done in emeth and uprightness – yashar – meaning that they are straight, upright, correct, pleasing, fitting, and proper.

9 He has sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever; holy and fearful [is] his name.

Redemption is a fantastic word. Peduth means ransom or deliverance. It’s root word means to precede or anticipate. It implies hastening to meet someone, usually for help. It is to confront and go before, to take the lead and forestall an impending gloom. I hate being first in line in a scary situation. I want someone else to go first so I can see what happens and prepare myself accordingly when it’s my time to step up to the plate. Yah has gone before us. Jesus did that for us and took on the full brunt of what I most certainly would not and could not have handled.

This passage again reiterates the forever concept of God’s work – olam olam. It is unending, bottomless. Its vanishing point is concealed in the past and in the future. Holy – qadosh – means set apart, sacred, saint, consecrated, hallowed, clean and purified. That’s what his name is. The very name that we cursorily and flippantly throw out. This name is also fearful – yare – it is dreadful and frightful. His name – shem – means his label as well has his reputation and fame based on his conspicuous position of authority.

LEB 10 The fear of Yahweh [is the] beginning of wisdom; all who do them have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

The dread of Yah is a good place to start if you want to grow in wisdom – chokmah. Wisdom means skill in war or in administration of the affairs of life. It means shrewdness and prudence. Life is hard and we all need skill in navigating it. We all want that. Well, Yah goes before in the difficult circumstances of life and trains you in wisdom if you surrender yourself to his work. Contemplate and fear the Rock of Ages and you will have nothing else to fear now and forever more.

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A second aspect of praise – tehillah – is introduced here. It means a praise-song – a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving. Tehillah is actually based in the word praise as we originally learned here – halal. All that boasting and shining, all that celebration and mad merry-making can be harnessed into song that we can sing with all our hearts. Great is your faithfulness O God our Father!

Through God We Will Do Valiantly

A devotional on Psalm 110.

Of David. A Psalm

1 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

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This Old Testament verse is one of the most quoted in the New Testament. In it David prophetically reports the Father’s words to Jesus as Jesus himself, Paul, and Peter recount and quote. With it, Jesus’s authority and superiority over all beings in creation is established.

Twice in today’s reading we read about the right hand like we did yesterday. Sitting assumes that work is done so this verse alludes to the Father inviting Jesus to sit in a position of power, favor, and authority until the Father made Jesus’s enemies a footstool for his feet. Imagine the humiliation of having to be on hands and knees while your vanquisher sets his feet on your back. This is a sure promise of the end of those who oppose King Jesus.

2 The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

The scepter is a powerful symbol or dominion. The Father will see to it that the enemies see and acknowledge Jesus’s rule. They will not be destroyed until they have experienced it.

3 Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you  like dew from the morning’s womb.

Imagine being a king and needing to go to battle. The enemy lines are drawn and they are pulsing, ready. The trumpet is blown, calling your army beside you, and no one shows up. Perhaps a few sickly soldiers come straggling in. How disheartening that would be. Not so on the Lord’s day of battle which may be this current time period. We are God’s troops. We are the soldiers of the cross. We are many and we are willing. We are trained and we are ready for battle.

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“The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light,” Romans 13:12. “The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” 2 Corinthians 10:4. We come with “truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;” 2 Cor. 6:7. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes,” Ephesians 6:11.

4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind:

“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

“God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19. His word stands for all time.

We know we are chosen, ordained, and anointed priests in service to God in the order of Aaron (Exodus 29) by the sprinkled blood of the offering as 1 Peter 1:2a states: “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood…” Now we, his little brothers and sisters are priests after him in the order of Melchizedek. “”For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren,” Rom. 8:29.

5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

7 He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.

The Lord is your strength and your power. If he will crush kings on the day of his wrath, how much more will he crush mere civilians that vex the body of Christ? The carnage wrought by this judge of the nations will be immense and final. So mighty is he, and superior, that in his pursuit of his enemies he will have time to enjoy a cool draft from a brook along the way, refresh himself, and hold his head high, high in valor and in conquest. He is at your right hand.

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Vengeance – Part 2

A devotion of Psalm 109:21-31.

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21 But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.

22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.

The Hebrew title used here is Adonai Jehovah – the firm, strong Master, the self-existing one, I Am. He so reveres and honors this name and helps us for it’s sake. As we confess our sin and bow before him in reverence, we are helped. Our deliverance depends on his goodness – and O, there is plenty of it. Where we are poor and needy and hurting, and there is grace to blanket us in comfort and peace.

23 I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.

24 My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.

25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads.

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Anxiety, grief, and distress wreak havoc on the emotions and on the body. They zap our appetite and derail the nutrients we need to sustain our very lives. They promote inflammation and disease and dry out our bones and our muscles. Self-care falls by the wayside and we slowly become a shadow of who we were. We see it and those around us do too. Our spirit fades and we become increasingly lifeless. Those around us flick us off as we appear unhuman and therefore as dispensable and annoying as a bug. We are pelted with derision and become a byword.

26 Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.

27 Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it.

28 While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice.

29 May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

God becomes our help as the hymn says:

O God, our help in ages past our hope for years to come

Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.

Beneath the shadow of the Thy throne thy saints have dwelt secure,

Sufficient is thine arm alone and our defense is sure.

Bing Crosby

God’s deliverance is his sure sign of approval of us – even when we don’t deserve it. His mercy and faithfulness defend us and break through for us. He is our flag and his activity in our life advertises him and his power. He boasts in us as he shows himself strong. He renders our enemies curses null and void as he floods blessings over us. He turns against their proud faces and they melt, covered in disgrace and shame.

30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.

31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.

As we witness and receive this approval, our mouths pour out praise. As he pours his blessings into us, we breathe out gratitude and adoration in praise. We seek out and delight along with others he has blessed. We bless and praise him. God becomes our right-hand man. He proudly stands beside us. Where we have been needy he cloaks us in dignity and honor. He is not ashamed or embarrassed to be seen or associated with us. Indeed, he fondly places his arm around our shoulder and parades us around those he loves.

Vengeance – Part 1

A devotion of Psalm 109

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent,

Praise is the anchor of David’s life. It defines him in good times and in hard times. He lifts God up and humbles himself as we will see in this psalm. He invokes God at a time when his character has been assaulted and his life threatened by a vicious enemy. Even then, he knows, God is God and worthy of praise. At such times we are likely to crumble in our faith and to turn all the focus inward in self-pity and defensiveness. May we learn from David to keep our eyes upon Jesus and not upon the threats being brandished at us.

2 for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me;

    they have spoken against me with lying tongues.

There isn’t an attack so brutal, so vicious as one that comes from a lying tongue. Surely our own legitimate faults are bad enough but to be painted with deceitful tongue deepens the injury of the accusation.

3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.

Hatred drives this besetting enemy who closes in strategically. David is innocent. The attacker has no cause for the assault, but that does not stop him. David is very cognizant of his faults. He has thoroughly searched his heart and knows that evil is being returned for good he has done, not for evil. He has been a friend but they have reviled his kind gestures and spurned his friendship.  

4 In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.

5 They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.

David is a mighty man of war. He is famous throughout his life for rolling heads. He is capable and courageous and calculating. Yet here we see him brandishing a very different weapon than his attackers – the weapon of prayer. Whatever you are known as, may you be, more importantly known as a person of prayer. He will fight this battle on his knees.

6 Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand.

7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.

8 May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.

9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.

11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.

14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

15 May their sins always remain before the Lord, that he may blot out their name from the earth.

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David rains down curses upon his enemy, his parents and their children as was the culture then. A vile man was known to come from vile roots and to produce vile fruit. Better to wipe them all out for one was as all. But note, yet again, that David who could easily have taken this simple murderous task asked that God would undertake it and even use others to do the dirty work – another accuser, a creditor; he would not soil his hands with this blood.

16 For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted.

17 He loved to pronounce a curse— may it come back on him.

He found no pleasure in blessing— may it be far from him.

18 He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.

19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him.

20 May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me.

The person that David curses has a deep-rooted history of depravity. He routinely not only hounds the poor, the needy and the brokenhearted, but he does so to their death. This is not just a one-time offender. He wears his offense like a garment and is known for it. He is wicked through and through – from the marrow of his bones to the outer garment he dons.

May we be as David in his dealings with the evil ones we oppose us. Especially then may we stand upon our identity as men and women of praise; men and women of prayer. May we trust in our God so deeply and know with full confidence that he will be our defense. His faithfulness, as we saw in Psalm 108 means firmness, reliability, true, trustworthiness. He will save us and help us with his right hand.

His Love Endures My Folly

A devotional on Psalm 107:1-22

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,

3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.

5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.

6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

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This God, who is The Way, takes lost souls wandering in the wilderness of life, hungry and despondent, and leads them by a straight way to a city where they can settle. The wilderness is desolate, lonely, dangerous from predators of the howling kind or of the thieving, murderous kind. You moan from a parched throat and cracked lips and tongue. The sun beats you down and dries you out during the day and the cold cuts you like a driven nail at night. Your clothes are filthy and rent from thorny snags. Hard rocks that harbor defensive scorpions are your soft pillow for the sleepless nights.

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Cities are boisterous with activity and fancy city folks. Roads are laid out and marked. There are numerous good things with which to quench your thirst, scintillate your palate, adorn your fashion sense, and fluffy pillows to lay your head on. The Way takes lost souls wandering in the wilderness of life and leads them by a straight way to a city where they can settle. He reminds us that he is the God who sees our afflictions. We cry, he answers. We cry, he answers. We cry, he answers.

10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains,

11 because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High.

12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help.

13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.

14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.

15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

16 for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.

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As the Swahili saying goes, “if the child cries for the razor, give it to him.” Yesterday we learned that when we insist on what we think we want or need in life, he will give it to us. Indeed, he will give us over to it. That is a terrible plight. Protect us from ourselves, dear Lord. Protect us from rebellion and from despising your plans. Save us from these prisons of our own making. Humble us in our utter darkness and our iron chains. Open our eyes to see the hidden snares behind our desires.  Thank you that your blessings and that you add no sorrow to them, (Proverbs 10:22.) Thank you for being the Light of the World and a very mighty deliverer. Thank you that even from this dim place, we cry, you answer. We cry, you answer. We cry, you answer.

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.

18 They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death.

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.

20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.

21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.

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How he desires to protect us from pain. He warns us repeatedly to guard against following our evil desires. They lead only to rebellion and affliction. God will not be mocked. What we sow, that also shall we reap. If we sow iniquity, we become fools. The devil is a cruel taskmaster. We think we can back out of our contract with him at any time, but he will not have that. He tightens the shackles and keeps driving us. He drives us to the ground because he is a thief who comes but to kill, steal, and destroy.

O, but our God! He sends out his word and heals even the fool. He extricates us from the very grave when the cords of death entangled us; when the torrents of destruction overwhelm us; when the cords of the grave coil around us; and the snares of death confront us. (Ps. 18:4, 5).

O, give thanks unto the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for us. You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:1-12, 23, 24). Thank you for the being The Way and the Way Maker.

Nevertheless, He Remembered

A devotion on Psalm 106: 24-48

Yesterday we saw that despite grand benefits to God’s people, they chose to be soulish and to walk in iniquity. Their Wills, their Intellect, and their Emotions were bent away from God and from things of God. They wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it even when it didn’t line up with God’s express directions for them. Today we will analyze the root of this problem and see God’s solution.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word,

25 But complained in their tents and did not heed the voice of the Lord.

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God has a plan for your life. He expresses it clearly in his Word and gives you Holy Spirit and every available resource to enable you to carry it out. You will either bend your will, your intellect, and your emotions to line up with his or you will despise it! Like a plant on the windowsill leans towards the sun and needs to be turned frequently so as not to deform, your soul/heart/mind need to be trained to not lean towards things of the enemy, the world, and the flesh. Keep turning it back to God.

Despise Clip Art

Despise, ma’as, means to reject, refuse, loathe, disdain, cast off. It is an action born of strong emotion that can span the gamut from loathing to disregard – the ‘myeh’ attitude we addressed yesterday. God calls his plans for us the ‘pleasant land.’ By comparing it to other people’s, we may conclude we are not getting the best deal. We can say with our attitudes and actions, “God, I don’t want what you have for me. What I really want is this other thing over here.” We look at what he has for us or where he has us and conclude that it lacks value for our needs. This is marked by unbelief in his Word and promises; by private and/or public grumbling and complaining; and by open disobedience to his commands.

26 Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness,

27 To overthrow their descendants among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.

God watches and sees us and our actions have an impact on him. The Israelite’s actions were so irksome that they roused God’s ire against his beloved. He values his plans and his Word so much that to despise them is to trample him and his goodness. To overthrow, naphal, means to fall in a variety of ways, e.g. fall down, fall away, be cast away or cast down, fall out; it can mean to die or rot. God would not only overthrow the offenders, but those who came after them who walked in their ways.

Beloved, our descendants frequently walk in our ways. It is an astonishing thing about human nature that our children will behave much like we do yet we will shake our heads and wonder why one earth they do what they do, not realizing it is what we trained them to do, moment by moment, year after year.

28 They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices made to the dead.

29 Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them.

30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped.

31 And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore.

They did despicable things that God had forbidden for their own good and the consequences of their actions hailed down on them. Lucky for them, God in his mercy had raised and placed among them a man of honor who valued God and his ways, Phinehas. He was the son of Eleazer and the grandson of Aaron. Had he watched uncle Moses intercede for the people and change the tide of events? Had he watched his grandpa Aaron help erect the golden calf? His name means the hiss of serpent’s mouth. It means to diligently observe signs and touches on divination and sensitivity to the divine and therefore to whisper what one hears or sees.

He drove a spear through a couple that was flagrantly committing sexual immorality in the camp. He stood up to the immorality that had permeated the minds of his fellow countrymen and that was killing them. But they couldn’t see that. They were distracted by the good time they were having eating decadent food sacrificed to idols and by sexual sin. What would Jesus later say to the churches? “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat foods sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality,” Revelation 2:14. They missed the stumbling block and one after the other, they tripped over it and fell away.

Phinehas’s bold action saved the day. Beloved your intercession is not in vain. Your prayers and actions can avert a plague. He who prays fires the winning shot.

32 They angered Him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses on account of them;

33 Because they rebelled against His Spirit, so that he spoke rashly with his lips.

But it didn’t stop there. These people, like us, have behaviors that are rotten through and through. They so vexed their leader Moses and drove him to a personal choice that would cost him his entry into the Promised Land. God dealt with him as he dealt with his followers and the consequences of sin applied to him also. His grand position of leadership and his vast experience couldn’t save him. It is a sad, sad story. He begged God to let him set foot in Canaan. God only allowed him to see it from a mountain top before he passed away.

34 They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them,

35 But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works;

36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them.

37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons,

38 And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters,

Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.

39 Thus they were defiled by their own works and played the harlot by their own deeds.

The Israelites were supposed to dispossess the people of the land. But they fell in love with them and their ways. The word mingle, arab, means to braid. The Israelites interwove themselves with the foreigners they were supposed to wipe out. The result was just as God had warned about – they learned their works and their ways. They repeatedly did deplorable things and these became a snare to them. The pleasure thereof was but bait in a trap. They and their children suffered terribly for it.

40 Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.

41 And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles, and those who hated them ruled over them.

42 Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.

43 Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their counsel and were brought low for their iniquity.

“Why did I ever save these people from Egypt?” God might have thought. Their actions so kindled his ire that scripture says he abhorred them. That means he loathed or detested them. Those are strong words! Many times he delivered them but they despised his choices for them and bucked him at every turn.

44 Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry;

45 And for their sake He remembered His covenant and relented according to the multitude of His mercies.

46 He also made them to be pitied by all those who carried them away captive.

O but grace! God’s heart melted when they suffered and cried out to him. As we’ve learned throughout the Psalms, we call, he hears. We cry, he answers. They sinned terribly. Nevertheless, God heard and saw their suffering. Nevertheless, he remembered his promise to his friend Abraham for a thousand generations and his grace covered this multitude of sin.

47 Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!

His grace to us delivers us from the ridiculous places we take ourselves. In his power and love he rescues us. And why? So we can give thanks and praise to his name. Thus do we triumph. Barak him, the Adonai of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Shout your “amen.” Sing your “praise the Lord.” Delight in his goodness and kindness to you despite your failures.  He loves and will deliver you, nevertheless.

Guard the Heart

A devotion on Psalm 106:1-23

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Yesterday we looked through God’s lens at his outlook and intention for his people. We had a bird’s eye view and were up looking down. Today we will see the exact same scene from man’s outlook and the outcome of attempting to walk in faith in a soulish manner. It is a miserable flop. If you apply these scenes to your life it will powerfully transform you and your soul (also known as your heart.) Remember that the soul is your Will, your Intellect, and your Emotions (WIE.) If you don’t submit our soul to God it will wreck your faith!

1 Praise the Lord!

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

God’s goodness is stated in scripture as a fact. The world, the devil, and the flesh will instantly tell you that it is not true. Guard your heart against even a drop of this poison in your well. Your thanks quotient is one way that will demonstrate your understanding and belief of this. How are you doing in that area? If you have any room for improvement, make a concerted effort to be more grateful and to express it.

2 Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise?

3 Blessed are those who keep justice, and he who does righteousness at all times!

You can! Are you? You get to be a vanguard. You get to walk at the front of the King’s procession and make way for him with your grand proclamations of his mighty acts and his praise. You are invited to do this. Do you, believer?

4 Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation,

5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,

That I may glory with Your inheritance.

What a privilege, what an honor, what a prized position to be favored by the Most High! O, he remembers you, beloved. Great are your benefits, you chosen one – and all so you can rejoice in the gladness. Rejoice exuberantly to the point of glory, halal. That means celebrate wildly, shine and rave about this, make a show. It is all the rage. If we truly understood our identity and its benefits, we would be running wildly down the street and telling all about it.

6 We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.

7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;

They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, but rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.

Remembrance, and thus our memory is a function of the intellectual aspect of our souls. It is easy to point fingers of blame when it comes to sin. We look back at our forefathers and marvel at what dimwits they were. They saw all those grand things and still didn’t believe? They saw it live, how could they not understand the wonders? It was still in their working memory, how could they forget? But we are in the exact same position. He has given us as much if not more to remember him by. He has given us our own experiences plus theirs to build and jog our memories of his greatness.

8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.

10 He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11 The waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left.

12 Then they believed His words; they sang His praise.

Thank God that he saves us for his name’s sake. If he saved us for our own sake we would be doomed. We humbly thank you Father for your deliverance in our lives. Thank you for covering us where we fail, for your name’s sake. Thank you for standing by your promise to us, for your name’s sake. What a marvelous name it is!

I was enthralled by this screen-saver yesterday.

How many Red Seas has he parted in your life? I hope you collected some artefacts while you were down there for show and tell. How many enemies did he shield you from and even drown in that same sea? If we are not talking about these things at the dinner table and in our coming and going, what one earth are we talking about? It’s no wonder that if we don’t praise him the rocks will cry out – this stuff is uncontainable!

13 They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel,

14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert.

15 And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.

Oh friends! This must make the angels hang their heads and cry. That he would part a Red Sea for me and I’d turn right around and forget it? That’s horrific. Note the word ‘soon’ in that line. It means hastily, promptly, speedily. No sooner was the deed done then it was forgotten. How heart-breaking. May this never be said about you. The word forget, shakach, means to ignore, to cease to care. I pray that this is cutting your heart. I describe it as a ‘myeh’ attitude towards God and his works. No marveling, no wide-eyed wonder, just “‘myeh’ that was good.”

What does it mean to wait for his counsel? It means he guides and directs me. He is the boss. It also means I have the privilege of conferring with him; we deliberate and purpose together. That’s a function of our soul too. Are we waiting for his counsel or are we running pell-mell into plans of our own devising? Are we listening for and attending to his admonition? Are we subjecting our plans to his scrutiny and submitting them to his plans or are we bucking his at every turn, if we even care to know what they are? ‘Myeh.

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What about our desires? They burn like a roaring jet-engine flame and drive us wherever we want – fast and furious. No waiting here. We’ve got places to go and things to do. Lust is merely desire, neither positive nor negative. It is yet another function of the soul. In this context the longing and craving surely isn’t for things of God. It’s for unbridled human appetites that gnaw at us from the inside. We live our undisciplined lives wanting and getting what we crave when we want it. Lust fulfilled is not quelled – it is inflamed. We have appetites that will consume us if we don’t hold a tight rein on them – loose lips, cutting tongues, ‘judgey’ attitudes, competitive or manipulative spirits, self-absorption; the list is endless. Nab them as Holy Spirit highlights them in your life. With his help, hog-tie them or they swiftly become hang-ups that impede your intimacy with God and with other people.

There is an answer to prayer that you don’t want God to grant. May we open our mouths and beseech him not to answer prayers that are driven by a heart that does not remember his works, that does not wait for his counsel, that not only lusts but lusts exceedingly. God, save me from myself and my implosive requests. May my heart hunger and thirst for you alone. Anything else, no matter how appetizing brings leanness to my soul. It leaves my soul gaunt and anorectic. In your mercy, please do not answer that prayer, God.

16 When they envied Moses in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord,

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan, and covered the faction of Abiram.

18 A fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.

Envy, qana, speaks to a jealousy and smoldering hatred towards those that God has appointed to positions or given blessings that we think we want or deserve. This is another insidious vice that can crouch at the door of our hearts if we are not on guard. We can even harbor envy with a smile on our faces. It swims in murky waters and keeps company with ingratitude, entitlement, comparison, greed, and other shifty characters.

19 They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molded image.

20 Thus they changed their glory into the image of an ox that eats grass.

21 They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, awesome things by the Red Sea.

23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.

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And all those things we have listed before idolatry even knocks on the door! By the time we erect the golden calf in our life we have long been excavating ground, laid a foundation, and constructed a stable altar to hold it up. We may focus on the golden calf as the problem but let’s not forget the groundwork it stands on, which is all the things we’ve discussed so far, frequently unseen by other human eyes.

Earlier we read of glory, halal, meaning wild celebration. This time glory, kabod, means honor, abundance, dignity, splendor. When we engage in idolatry, we give up our glory. We become worthless like the idols we worship. As the moon reflects the sun, beloved, we borrow our worth from what we worship. Our glory is on loan. What are you getting yours from? We become like Esau, exchanging a bowl of pottage for a birthright. What? We know that that is the most foolish thing we could ever do but in the heat of the moment; in the cavernous cravings, we devalue our glory. We trade an ingot of pure gold for a can of beans.

No wonder scripture says to “guard the heart above all else, for it is the source of life,” Proverbs 4:23. Contemplate that as you walk about today. In your comings and goings, shine a light in your heart, zahar, and with Holy Spirit’s help, root out these enemies of your soul.

Promises – Choose to Remember

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A devotion of Psalm 105:23-45

This wonderful section is the promise from God’s perspective and as he had planned it. We know very well that the reality on the ground was very different as we shall see in the summary at the end and in tomorrow’s reading.

Today, we see God’s hand of power in the grand scheme. He sent Joseph to Egypt. Then he sent a famine and Joseph delivered Egypt and the surrounding area from it. Then he sent Joseph’s father Israel and his family up to Egypt and a grand joyous reunion ensued. This story is one of the most riveting in the Bible and very special part of our spiritual heritage. Remembering is a grand theme. Remind yourself of this story often and tell it to your children and grandchildren!

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.

Egypt is called the Land of Ham. Ham was the second of Noah’s sons. His name, Cham, prounounced Khawm means hot, burnt, or black. He is thus representative of the land of Africa, whose people are sometimes called Hamites.

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.

Commentator Guzik quotes theologian Boice: “In order to understand these plagues we need to understand that they were directed against the gods and goddesses of Egypt and were intended to show the superiority of the God of Israel to the Egyptian gods.”

· When God sent darkness, He showed Himself greater than Ra (the sun God) and Nut (the sky goddess).

· When God turned their waters into blood, He showed Himself greater than Osiris (god of the Nile) and Khnum (the guardian of the Nile).

· When God made their land abound with frogs, He showed Himself greater than the goddess Hekt (the frog-goddess of fertility).

· When God sent swarms of flies and lice, He showed Himself greater than the fly-god Uatchit.

· When God sent hail for rain, He showed Himself greater than Geb, the god of the earth; Nepri, the goddess of grain; and Anuibis, the guardian of the fields.

· When God sent locusts without number, He showed Himself greater than Shu, the god of the atmosphere, and Min, the deity of the harvest.”


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.

This brief section outlines God’s faithfulness in protection and provision over his people. He even saw to their comfort, providing warmth and ample nourishment. This is what he does for you and I every day, beloved! Water from the rock reminds me of Jesus giving water from the well and this glorious song:

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.

Yes, the reality on the ground was very different indeed. It was rife with grumbling and disbelief. They threatened mutiny and the bodies of many fell in the wilderness because of sin and disobedience. Will we choose to live out God’s promises from his perspective and in faith and obedience or will we buck him all the way to the Promised Land. The choice is ours, beloved. If we choose to remember, this will be our experience in life as we journey into our Promised Land, eternity in heaven. In the next chapter, we’ll see what things looked like on the ground. His promises will not be thwarted. Every last one will come true. But the reality on the ground may be very different indeed!

Choose to remember. Only then can you keep his precepts and obey his laws. Only then can you properly praise the Lord, remembering who you are and who God is and what he has done for you!