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The Magnificence of God's Sovereignty...Read More

[With this article I begin a new series of short, daily meditations on selected Psalms.] In most instances I like to leave myself a little theological wiggle room, a loophole, if you will, a measure of flexibility that affords me the opportunity of qualifying some statement that I've made. In fact, it's often the failure to provide nuance and clarification to our declarations that gets us in trouble or boxes us in to a position that on more mature reflection clearly cal...Read More

r While in England in February of 2007, I had the privilege of speaking yet again at the Life in the Spirit conference. During one of his messages, fellow-speaker Dave Smith made passing reference to my book, Pleasures Evermore, and articulated in a most refreshing and poignant way its principal theme. "When it comes to living a successful Christian life," said Dave, "and resisting the power of temptation, simply saying ‘No! No! No!' won't suffice. We must learn t...Read More

Dr Absalom was David's third son. His second son, Chileab, is never mentioned after reference to his birth and the assumption is that he died early on. David's first-born son was Amnon. The story of how Amnon died is a sordid one. Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, and Absalom, Tamar's brother, swore revenge. It took two years but finally Absalom arranged for Amnon to be killed. Fearing punishment, Absalom went into exile for three years. When he finally returned to J...Read More

The message trumpeted by the world, the flesh, and the devil is relatively simple. It's often packaged in different shapes and sounds, but the underlying theme is monotonously the same. Like a reverberating echo in an empty cave, the refrain is incessant, unending, and unchanging: "There is more joy in illicit sex than in Jesus. There is more joy in goodies and gold than in Jesus. There is more joy in power, pride, and a drug-induced high than in Jesus. There is more joy...Read More

Dr Listen to Solomon's words in Proverbs 15:8 - "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him" (or,"is His delight" [NAS]). Although God is spirit, if he had a face he would display one of two looks when people pray. This text suggests that God frowns in disgust when the wicked hypocritically try to manipulate him with their sacrifices. But he has a beaming, glowing smile of indescribable delight whenever...Read More

Dr It's difficult to live in a world of corruption, abuse, and mindless cruelty and not experience a recurring spiritual nausea. When one witnesses senseless injustice and the prosperity of those responsible for it, nausea turns to indignation and righteous rage. I know a little of what the psalmist meant when he cried out, "How long, O Lord, how long?" Sometimes the question, "How long?" doesn't spring from a speculative curiosity that says, "I want to know when," but...Read More

Dr Depression is an ugly word, and difficult to define. We've all faced it, some worse than others. Even if we don't understand it, we know what it feels like. The confidence that God is behind you has vanished. The courage to face anything life might throw in your path has given way to the horrifying suspicion that God has forgotten who and where you are. Where is he now when you need him most? Where is he when your life is enveloped in darkness and you can't find the...Read More

Dr The psalms come to us in a variety of spiritual colors. Some are glorious, green, glad-hearted hymns of praise. Others are filled with bright blue, unrelenting gratitude. There are psalms of confidence, of remembrance, wisdom psalms, kingship psalms, and even the crimson of imprecatory psalms that call for God's judgment against the wicked. But nothing can compare with the dismal grey of the psalms of lament. These psalms are "the polar opposite of the hymn on the e...Read More

Dr Psalm 15 is short (only five verses) and to the point: "O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put...Read More

Dr Rock stars rarely age well. The Rolling Stones are a case in point. Often called The Strolling Bones, and not without cause (!), this once energetic and controversial sixties group was actually invited to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show only a few years ago. Of all their many hits, the one that lingers most in my memory is the grammatically torturous, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"! As I type it, Microsoft Word faithfully reminds me of its error with that...Read More

Dr Look up and listen, for "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). What a way to begin the psalm that C. S. Lewis called "the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world" (Reflections on the Psalms, 63). The grand sweep of Psalm 19 is nothing short of stunning. It begins with the skies above (vv. 1-6), then moves to the Scriptures below (vv. 7-11), and finally to the prayerful meditation...Read More

Dr I have written in a variety of places (both books and articles) on Psalm 19, so I trust you'll indulge me yet one more time as I reflect on this magnificent portrayal of the beauty and power of God's Word. The following observations are adapted from my book Pleasures Evermore (Chapter Nine). In Psalm 19:7-11 we find six declarations that tell us what the Bible is and does: six nouns, six adjectives, six verbs. The focus is on the identity (the nouns), the quality (t...Read More

Dr If you've never given much thought to Psalm 22, there's no better place to begin than with the following comment of Charles Spurgeon: "For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, there is none like it. It is the photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but,...Read More

Dr Perhaps the most pervasive theme in all of Scripture is God's passion for God. No, that's not a misprint. Many would have preferred that I say, "God's passion for you," but if God isn't first and foremost committed to himself and the pursuit and praise of his own glory, his love for you wouldn't amount to much at all. But let me return to this notion of God's commitment to God. On what biblical grounds do I dare make what appears, at first glance, to be an outrageou...Read More

Dr Aside from John 3:16, Psalm 23 may well be the most famous and oft-quoted passage in all of Holy Scripture. I've seen it printed on greeting cards, embossed on plaques, written on T-shirts, sewn into quilts, and even parts of it have appeared on bumper stickers of cars! I attribute this to its remarkable and powerfully reassuring portrait of God as both the good shepherd who cares for and protects his sheep and the gracious host who provides for their every need. Go...Read More

I’ve always been intrigued by Psalm 27:4, if for no other reason than that it is the last thing one would expect from David, at least when looked at from a purely human perspective. Given his circumstances, this single-minded, undistracted commitment to gaze on God’s beauty seems out of place.   I can’t believe I just wrote that! It shows how little I know of God’s beauty that I should think, if only even for a moment, that anything could j...Read More

He should have known better. He never should have stayed at home alone while his army was fighting in the field. He never should have lingered late at night on his rooftop. He never should have set his eyes on that beautiful lady. He never should have inquired about who she was, nor should he have sent for her, nor should he have slept with her. He should have known better. But King David sinned and Bathsheba conceived.   He should have known better. He never shou...Read More

Friends fail us. Stocks plummet. Health is unreliable. A promise is broken. Need I say more? The fact is, there is nothing, no one, anywhere in which/whom we can place our unqualified trust and be assured it/they will not let us down.   So what’s a person to do? If no one is infallibly worthy of our unquestioning trust, where do we turn? To whom do we ultimately look? In what do we put our hope?   For anyone who reads the Psalms, the answer is obvious...Read More

What does it mean to seek after God? How does one pursue the Almighty? Let’s explore Psalm 34 and take note of how David did it. There are six things I want you to consider as essential in pursuing God.   First, celebrate God (vv. 1-3)! Observe the passion and intensity of David’s worship.   “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad...Read More

How is one supposed to respond to verses in the Psalms like these?   “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you” (Psalm 5:10).   “Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the ange...Read More

I love the Psalms. No book in all of Scripture has ministered to me as powerfully as this collection of inspired prayers and praise. Any suggestion that they are less than the inspired Word of God is deeply troubling to me. So how are we to make sense of these imprecatory outbursts in which the psalmist pleads for God’s wrath and destruction of the wicked?   Let me make several suggestions that might help.   (1) We should remember that in Deut. 27-28 ...Read More

Let me conclude our study of these unsettling psalms with a few words of practical application taken from my book, The Singing God (pp. 169-75).   Although it may sound contradictory, we are to “love” those whom we “hate”. We love our enemies by doing good to them (Luke 6:27). We love them by providing food when they are hungry and water when they thirst (Romans 12:20). We love our enemies by blessing them when they persecute and oppress us...Read More

I am an unashamed, passionate advocate of Christian Hedonism. I’m sure there are some who think that’s akin to saying that I enjoy eating fried ice or drawing round squares. After all, aren’t Christianity and Hedonism mutually exclusive? This isn’t the place to explain why they aren’t. I’ve done that elsewhere at some length (see my books, Pleasures Evermore and One Thing, and of course, John Piper’s classic defense in his book, ...Read More

What is one to do when all you’ve had for breakfast is tears, followed by a late night snack of sorrow? The answer of the psalmist sounds as strange as the question: Preach to your soul! Take yourself in hand, look yourself in the eyes, and preach this message: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:5,11; 43:5).   If the sentiment of Psal...Read More

Ein feste burg ist unser Gott! Say what? Well, that’s how Martin Luther would have written it in his famous hymn:   “A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.”   There can be no doubt but that Luther’s sturdy, unshakeable, unflappable confidence in God as his refuge, his strength, his mighty, impenetrable fortress is what ultimately accounted for what he was able to accom...Read More