How Shall We Sing?

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Reading the Word

Psalm 137:1–9 (ESV)
1 By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!

7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a sad psalm. We read words reflecting on the feelings of those Israelites who were taken into exile by the Babylonians. We read of their heartache and tears. Their captors called on them to sing their songs, but they have no desire to sing. How can they sing when they are away from Jerusalem and the presence of God? The final verses turn to calling on God to avenge his people and execute justice against the Babylonians.

Living in this world, Christians find themselves as exiles. We live among those who are not God’s people and who are opposed to God’s word. In many places and across history, many believers have suffered great injustice at the hands of those opposed to Christianity. When we see or hear of these things, our hearts break and we call out to God. We call out because we desire for the sin of this world to be removed and we cry out for God to execute justice on behalf of the innocent. Let us continue to sing the songs of our great Redeemer as we wait for him.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

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He Loved to Curse

Romans 1219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 109:16–20 (ESV)

16 For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. 17 He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him! 18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones! 19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around him, like a belt that he puts on every day! 20 May this be the reward of my accusers from the Lord, of those who speak evil against my life!

Understanding and Applying the Word

David continues to pray for God to take action against his enemy. In these verses, he calls for the enemy to have curses fall upon him. Why? Because David’s enemy is one who loved to curse others. It would be fitting for such to happen to him.

This psalm is hard for us to understand if we cannot accept that God is a just God and calls for us to long for justice as well. David’s prayer reflects that he longs for justice. He desires that the one who is evil will be repaid with evil. An important thing to note in this psalm is that David leaves justice in the hands of the all-knowing and perfectly just God. It is ultimately God who knows when and how to judge a person. It is also God who may choose to extend his grace. David calls for justice and leaves it in God’s hands. This is what we are called to do as well, as Paul states in Romans 12:19:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Your Years Have No End

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Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish devotional content on Sundays, but do include a suggested reading from Scripture. Be sure to subscribe to this page to follow along each day as we read through the Psalms in 2018.

Reading the Word

Psalm 102:23–28 (ESV)

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. 24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!” 25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. 28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.

Holy Is He!

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Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish devotional material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested reading for the day. Thank you for reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day as we read through the Book of Psalms in 2018.

Reading the Word

Psalm 99:1–5 (ESV)

1 The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! 2 The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. 3 Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! 4 The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. 5 Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

The God of Vengeance

Romans 1219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 94:1–10 (ESV)

1 O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! 3 O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage. 6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” 8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? 10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge—

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm is a prayer for God to give justice to his people. The wicked have taken advantage of them and believe that God does not know what has happened. But God does know. The One who created the eye and the ear has seen and heard. He is fully aware and he will bring judgement upon the wicked.

The children of God can find peace and assurance in knowing that God is omniscient. There is nothing that happens without his knowledge. And there is nothing that happens that will not be brought into judgement. This is why Paul can write in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” So let us live our lives in such a way that give glory to God while we trust in him to right the scales of justice in the end.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Those Who Hate God

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Reading the Word

Psalm 83:1–8 (ESV)

1 O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! 2 For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads. 3 They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. 4 They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” 5 For they conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant— 6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, 7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; 8 Asshur also has joined them; they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm is a plea for God to rescue the people of Israel from their enemies. Those enemies are spelled out in verses 6-8. One thing to note is the concern of the psalmist. He does not make his plea based on the innocence of Israel. He does not call out and ask God to protect the Israelites because they are being treated unjustly. His primary concern is that the enemy has declared war on God himself. Notice verse 2: “For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads.”

Throughout the ages, God’s people have suffered at the hands of others. The primary reason is not because of something that they had done. The primary reason has always been because the world is at war with God. It does not want him. We, as his people, are a constant reminder of the reality of God and the truth that God will one day bring all of mankind to judgment. Let us, as the people of God, remember that the word is at war with God and let us not be surprised when the world hates us. Let us be encouraged knowing that the war has already been won and that our God reigns!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Give Justice to the Weak

Psalm 823 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 82:1–8 (ESV)

1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

Understanding and Applying the Word

The meaning of “gods” in the first verse is debated. It could refer to world leaders or the evil forces behind those leaders. Regardless, God stands above and calls them to account. God’s concern is for their injustice in how they have treated the weakest in society. They have failed to properly care for the weak, the fatherless, and the needy.

The Bible tells us that God is especially concerned for the weak. He calls his people to show the same concern. After all, he demonstrated his love for those who could not help themselves when he sent his Son into the world to save those who would trust in him. Jesus died for those who were poor and needy and weak that we might be saved. Let us have the same compassion for others that God has shown to us.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

From Sea to Sea

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Reading the Word

Psalm 72:8–14 (ESV)

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! 9 May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! 12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After opening this psalm with a prayer of blessing for a newly inaugurated king, verses 8-11 go on to speak of the realm of the king’s reign. “May he have dominion from sea to sea,” says the psalmist. This is the prayer that the king’s dominion will be universal and that his reign will be acknowledged by the nations.

In verses 12-14 we again read that this king will be a defender of the weak and oppressed and will see to it that they receive justice.

These verses do not describe any government or ruler from history, but point us to the kingdom of God and the one true King who will rule the nations in justice. It is God’s plan to bring all things in heaven and earth under the rule of Jesus Christ, the Son (cf. Ephesians 1:10). As believers, we look forward to the day when the world will be as it should be and all people will be treated equally and with justice. We work to that end even now as we wait for the righteous and just King who will reign over all.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

The King of Justice

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Reading the Word

Psalm 72:1–7 (ESV)

1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! 5 May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! 6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! 7 In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Many scholars believe that this psalm is a prayer for the inauguration of a king. The prayer asks that the king would be one who ruled justly and championed the cause of the people, especially the oppressed of society. The prayer understands that when justice is practiced the nation flourishes in every way.

Throughout the history of the world, there have been societies that were better and worse at practicing justice. We can even see that this is still the case in our world today. One thing is certain though: there has never been a nation/government/ruler who ruled in perfect justice. In every time and place, people have been treated unfairly and been the subject of oppression. The Bible gives us hope that one day there will be a righteous King who will rule over the people with perfect justice (Isaiah 11:1-9). In that day the world will prosper under his rule and authority. Come, King Jesus!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Punishment upon Punishment

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Reading the Word

Psalm 69:22–28 (ESV)

22 Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. 23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. 24 Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. 25 May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. 27 Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Reading these verses raises questions in our minds. The verses seem so unkind and unloving. How can David say such things? Should we feel the same about our enemies? Didn’t Jesus teach that we should love our enemies? These are all good questions and we should wrestle with them.

David’s words are not contrary to the teaching of Scripture. First, he leaves vengeance in the hands of God. He dos not take it upon himself to punish his enemies, but calls out to God, the righteous and all-knowing Judge to do so. This is important because God is the one who always renders the right judgment. Secondly, Scripture tells us that sin and evil will ultimately be judged. David’s prayer is in line with this truth. He is calling out for what God has told us will take place. All believers should long for the day when injustice will cease and perfect justice will take place. That is the heart of David’s prayer.

Let us read these words and be reminded of the injustice of this world as we look forward to the end of sin and evil when God makes things right.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!