# 123 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 32 The Secret of Happiness!

The secret of Happiness

(Published in 2002 by Thomas Nelson Publishers)

There is no doubting it – everyone wants to be happy! But so often happiness evades us, and this can be for many reasons. Maybe it is due to ill health, or circumstances that are difficult, or expectations that have not been met, or breakdown in a relationship or failure to accomplish a certain task well. The list of possibilities are endless!

Sometimes though, it’s really hard to discover just why we are unhappy. On the surface of things, all looks fine and it seems strange that being happy is so evasive. Sadly, some who would appear to have everything they need for a happy life (e.g. celebrities, wealthy business people, sports stars, etc.) surprise us one day by overdosing on drugs or ending up in rehabilitation with an alcohol problem, or having endless relationship breakdowns, or even committing suicide.

In our psalm today, David understood what it was to be unhappy, although he seemed initially to have no real understanding as to the cause of his unhappiness or maybe he was in complete denial.  Listen to his words in verses 3-4:

He speaks of his inner life being devastated. He continues that his life was filled with frustration, irrepressible anguish, and misery. He said that the pain never let up and his strength was sapped, his inner life had dried up like a spiritual drought within his soul.   (TPT).

I don’t think there was any doubt that David was not a happy man!

Most commentators would put this psalm into the context of David’s life when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and followed this up by endeavouring to hide his sin by eventually having her husband, Uriah, killed in battle (2 Samuel 11-12).

When we read this story, it appears that there was a time period after Uriah’s death when David tried to live as if nothing seriously wrong had happened. Ever tried to do that? Not an easy thing to do! Particularly when you are the only one in denial!

Blaiklock comments on verse 3 when David says, “There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was.” (LB). He says, “This verse is an insight into the silent months after David [committed] murder and adultery, in which David appeared insensitive and beyond realization of the enormity of his sin…hostile people murmured their resentment and their discontent…The leader no longer led…He usurped arbitrary rights, and failed to realize the fragility of such hypocrisy.”  (#37)

And the consequences, other than the dramatic effect it had upon his role as King as well as all his relationships, was to make him one very miserable individual.

Listen again to David’s words:

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.  

This psalm was a favourite of St Augustine (354 – 430 AD) who once said, “The beginning of wisdom is to know yourself a sinner.”

The Apostle John gives some great advice in his first letter:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.      (1 John 1:8-10)

When I was 18 I was totally unaware of these truths. I had not arrived at the place of “wisdom” that Augustine refers to. Strangely though, prior to that year, I had some fairly high ideals, despite having mainly been influenced by some really bad role models. But, once I moved out into the world of work, money, friends, girls, etc. then my ideals began to crumble fairly fast. Initially I justified some of my activities by telling myself that “everyone did it!” (and it was not as if I had committed adultery or murdered anyone!). So slowly I began to accept the things I was doing as “normal” and certainly not something to have any sort of conscience about.

Until 3 months before my 19th birthday when I began to read that Book! It was simply called “Good News for Modern Man” and was an easy reading English version of the New Testament. I had picked it up in a friend’s library. And as I read it things began to change. My “seared conscience” (1 Timothy 4:2) began to once again make me feel uncomfortable with the sort of activities I was involved in. I began to feel very dissatisfied with my life and desired much more, although unaware of what that exactly was. And I, for the first time in my life, became conscious that there was a God and deep down I wanted to know Him, if that was possible.

The day I stopped hiding my sin from God (not that this is possible anyway!) was the day I discovered, like Augustine, that “The beginning of wisdom is to know yourself a sinner.” Then as John wrote in 1 John 1:9, I confessed my sin, my rebellion, my self-centredness to God, committing my life to Jesus, and experienced the happiness of knowing the forgiveness of sins and finding myself in a right relationship with God.

And this was David’s experience when, as he says at the beginning of this psalm:

Blessed [happy] is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed [happy] is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

Proverbs 28:13 adds:

13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

I trust that this has been your experience and you too have found this, “The Secret of Happiness” (the title of a book by Billy Graham written in 1955). If not, I suggest that you stop pretending that you have no sin hindering your relationship with God, recognize sin for what it is and confess this sin to your Father in Heaven, who forgives, just as David describes:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

Remember John’s words:

If we say that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins. (Living Bible).

If this has been in some way helpful to you, let me know. If you have further questions, I would be happy to try and answer them for you.  (click on ‘leave a comment’ below)

Father, thank you for revealing to us that true happiness can only be found in a right relationship with you. Thank you that rather than living in denial concerning our sin, we need to confess all to you and because of what Jesus has done for us we can be assured of forgiveness. Hallelujah!

# 122 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31. Emotions are complex!

Wheel of emotion # 2

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

( http://www.6seconds.org/2017/04/27/plutchiks-model-of-emotions/ )

Emotions! Love them or hate them, we have no choice but to learn to appreciate them (i.e. those of ourselves and others), then live with them, dealing with them intelligently and effectively or alternatively be overwhelmed and controlled by them and then flounder in life.

One definition is:

“Emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a certain degree of pleasure or displeasure. Scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings and there is no consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation. In some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. Those acting primarily on the emotions they are feeling may seem as if they are not thinking, but mental processes are still essential, particularly in the interpretation of events… Other theories, however, claim that emotion is separate from and can precede cognition.                                                                        Emotions are complex.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion )

This last short sentence seems to sum it all up very nicely!

Well, long before the researchers began to study emotions, they were present and being expressed by people all over the world, including in Israel by their favourite singer song writer, David.  Psalm 31 is a perfect example, full of emotion which David expresses to God without holding back. A lesson we all need to learn well!

This psalm moves from anguish to assurance, from “the heart-cry of pain and need to the quietness and confidence in answered prayer” (Blaiklock), but interestingly it seems to do this a couple of times as follows:

Verses 1-8 David initially affirms God as his place of refuge in his troubles:

I trust you, Lord, to be my hiding place.
Don’t let me down.
Don’t let my enemies bring me to shame.
Come and rescue me, for you are the only God
who always does what is right.
Rescue me quickly when I cry out to you.
At the sound of my prayer may your ear be turned to me.
Be my strong shelter and hiding place on high.
Pull me into victory and breakthrough.
3–4 For you are my high fortress, where I’m kept safe.
You are to me a stronghold of salvation.
    When you deliver me out of this peril,
it will bring glory to your name.
As you guide me forth I’ll be kept safe
from the hidden snares of the enemy—
the secret traps that lie before me—
for you have become my rock of strength.
Into your hands I now entrust my spirit.
O Lord, the God of faithfulness,
you have rescued and redeemed me.
I despise these deceptive illusions,
all this pretence and nonsense,
for I worship only you.
In mercy you have seen my troubles and you have cared for me;
even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy,
filled with praise for your love and mercy.
You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy;
you broke open the way to bring me to freedom,
into a beautiful, broad place.

Verses 9-18 David expresses his emotions and again cries out to God to keep doing what He does well.

O Lord, help me again! Keep showing me such mercy.
For I am in anguish, always in tears,
and I’m worn-out with weeping.
I’m becoming old because of grief; my health is broken.
10 I’m exhausted! My life is spent with sorrow,
my years with sighing and sadness.
Because of all these troubles, I have no more strength.
My inner being is so weak and frail.
11 My enemies say, “You are nothing!”
Even my friends and neighbours hold me in contempt!
They dread seeing me
and they look the other way when I pass by.
12 I am totally forgotten, buried away like a dead man,
    discarded like a broken dish thrown in the trash.
13 I overheard their whispered threats, the slander of my enemies.
I’m terrified as they plot and scheme to take my life.
14 I’m desperate, Lord! I throw myself upon you,
for you alone are my God!
15 My life, my every moment, my destiny—it’s all in your hands.
So I know you can deliver me
from those who persecute me relentlessly.
16 Let your shining face shine on me.
Let your undying love and glorious grace
save me from all this gloom.
17 As I call upon you, let my shame and disgrace
be replaced by your favour once again.
But let shame and disgrace fall instead upon the wicked—
those going to their own doom,
drifting down in silence to the dust of death.
18 At last their lying lips will be muted in their graves.
For they are arrogant, filled with contempt and conceit
as they speak against the godly.

Verses 19-22 David is full of praise for God who delivers him from the evil that surrounds him.

19 Lord, how wonderful you are!
You have stored up so many good things for us,
like a treasure chest heaped up and spilling over with blessings—
all for those who honour and worship you!
Everybody knows what you can do
for those who turn and hide themselves in you.
20 So hide all your beloved ones
in the sheltered, secret place before your face.
Overshadow them by your glory-presence.
Keep them from these accusations, the brutal insults of evil men.
Tuck them safely away in the tabernacle where you dwell.
21 The name of the Lord is blessed and lifted high!
For his marvellous miracle of mercy protected me
when I was overwhelmed by my enemies.
22 I spoke hastily when I said, “The Lord has deserted me.”
For in truth, you did hear my prayer and came to rescue me.

Verse 23-24 David exhorts God’s people everywhere to love and trust God, whatever our feelings.

23 Listen to me, all you godly ones: Love the Lord with passion!
    The Lord protects and preserves all those who are loyal to him.
But he pays back in full all those who reject him in their pride.
24 So cheer up! Take courage all you who love him.
Wait for him
to break through for you, all who trust in him!    (TPT)

Great advice!  Thanks David.

So, whatever your feelings are today, express them to God, who not only understands, but is waiting for you to talk to him with the desire that you will discover that trusting him is the best thing you can do for yourself (and others!).

Let me finish with the story of a friend who has battled cancer for a number of years and in the latest update concerning his health, the news is that it is deteriorating. There is now talk of him requiring palliative care. One can only imagine the sort of emotions present in him and his family, but I was very inspired by these words:

In spite of all that [referring to his symptoms including pain, etc] he does not give up, well anchored in faith and hope in God … We are putting …[everything] in the hands of the Lord. Our days are in ​​His hands [Psalm 31:15], ​in God’s hands…”


Father, we admit that at times we are overwhelmed by the events in our life and then by our own emotional responses to these things. Thank you for this psalm, a great example of what we can do and to whom we can go at such times – placing ourselves safely in to your hands! You, our God, are good. Amen.


# 121 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31 Safe in God’s hands!


Similar to most languages, in English we have lots of idioms. One we say is that “he/she is in good hands”, for example, when referring to a patient being cared for or being operated upon by a particular physician or surgeon. There is something very reassuring in this phrase, but even more if the “good hands” referred to are those of God!

The word “hands” is actually used four times in Psalm 31 as follows:

Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God


14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me


I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Verse 5a, Into your hands I commit my spirit, is a well-known verse, having been later  quoted by Jesus as he hung on a cruel Roman cross (Luke 23:46).

Here the psalmist acknowledges God as his “rock and his fortress”, as his “refuge” in the times of trouble that surround him due to his “enemies”. He can think of no better way to deal with this situation than to be completely surrendered to God in faith that He will act on his behalf. And so he prays, “into your [good] hands I commit my spirit.”

Spurgeon says, “These living words of David were our Lord’s dying words, and have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure.” (see references # 28)

Longman suggests, the psalmist “realizes that he lacks the necessary resources to save himself, so he puts himself totally into God’s hands.”

He continues, “Jesus found encouragement in this psalm as he was dying on the cross. At the climactic moment, he uttered the words of verse 5 to express his absolute confidence in God’s ability to rescue him. Of course, God did not rescue him from the cross, and he died, but God’s rescue came in the form of the resurrection. Peter encourages believers to have the same attitude towards God: ‘So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.’ (1 Peter 4:19)” (see references # 30)

Verse 15a, My times are in your hands; is also well known, probably having been prayed by many believers over the years since David wrote them. Recently I went to a 70th birthday party and when I looked around, the majority there were over 70, and thankful to God for the time that God has given them to live for him and serve him. Amongst these great people there were a good number who had served God in Australia as well as in places like Africa, Asia and South America. Whether we believe it or not, “our times are in God’s hands” and he gives us the years of our lives to live well and to glorify him.

Spurgeon (writing in the 1860’s), says concerning this truth, “The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of life, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven.”

W.G. Scroggie tells the story of “Dan Crawford, the African missionary” who translated these words as follows: “All my life’s why’s and when’s and where’s and wherefore’s are in God’s hands.” (see reference # 41)

Verses 15b and 8a are different. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy… deliver me from the hands of my enemies. Not only is the psalmist grateful for being in God’s good hands, he is also grateful that so far in his life he has been delivered from falling into the hands of his enemies and prays that this will continue.

Sometimes, of course, we are our own worst “enemy”, and when tempted, give in to temptation and find ourselves, temporarily, “in the hands of the enemy”, or so it seems. Jesus, when talking with some who opposed him (who were held captive “in the hands of the enemy”) said to them:

42  “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (John 8)

Spurgeon comments:

“To be shut up in one’s hand is to be delivered over absolutely to his power; now, the believer is not in the hand of death or the devil, much less is he in the power of man. The enemy may get a temporary advantage over us, but we are like men in prison with the door open; God will not let us be shut up, he always provides a way of escape.”

As Paul says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.      (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So, let me finish with a promise to believers made by Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”   (John 10)

Thank you Father that you are good and we can commit our whole being into your safe and good hands knowing that you will work out your good purposes in and through us. Our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are in your hands and that is a great comfort. “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12 Living Bible) And, “Our Father…Don’t bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One. “ (Matthew 6:13 Living Bible). Amen.




# 120 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31 Entitled?


We live in “interesting” days! My wife and I love and appreciate the gift of having a big family – 4 married offspring (+ their spouses) and 11 beautiful grandchildren. It is both enjoyable and slightly concerning to watch these latest generations grow up in the midst of our techno culture with all that this involves. We recognize our new responsibility (and privilege) to pray daily for each one of them.

I recently read an article found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4232696/Millenials-generation-huge-sense-entitlement.html which is about the “Millennials” (those born between 1982 -2000) and some of the challenges for employers when these young people join their companies. The phrase used here to describe the culture of some of this age group is “having a sense of entitlement”.

This is defined as follows: “If someone has a sense of entitlement, that means the person believes he deserves certain privileges — and he’s arrogant about it. The term “culture of entitlement” suggests that many people now have highly unreasonable expectations about what they are entitled to.”  https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/entitlement   In other places it is called an “entitlement complex”!

The article mentioned above does say that “Of course…not every young person born in these years is … foolishly self-regarding [thankfully!] … but many view [this] generation as the most entitled and egotistical to date.” It continues, this is “a generation who ‘want to know what’s in it for them’.”

I also heard recently a short message on our local Christian radio station when the speaker spoke of “mini-outrages”, often posted on social media platforms. He wasn’t suggesting that these came only from “millennials” (and they don’t), but talking of how people vent about the smallest (what most would call relatively insignificant) things, again suggesting this false sense of entitlement.

In our psalm for today (Psalm 31) maybe some might consider that David might be one of these people who has a sense of entitlement as he complains to God about the events of his life. Although one has to admit, the events in his life that he mentions could hardly be defined as “mini-outrages”! Listen to what he says:

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbours
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
Terror on every side!”                                                                                                                They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.

So, considering all those words in bold font above, even the most self-serving person (which generally David was not) would have to admit that David did actually have grounds for justifiable complaint. In fact, maybe he could also justifiably have had a sense of “entitlement” – he was the King of Israel after all!

But, somehow, all this does not come across in this psalm. These are not the words of some self-centred despotic king wanting his own way and “spitting the dummy”, so to speak! In fact, these are the words of David, the one described as a “man after God’s own heart”. Listen to that heart speak to the God he reverently trusted, adored and worshipped, even in the midst of trouble:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Note those words in bold font in verse 3:

Here lies the motivation for David’s complaint to God, for his prayer for help – “…for the sake of your name…” Sure, David was human like us and so wasn’t exactly enjoying the suffering that he was going through, but there was so much more at stake than just relief from his suffering. There was God’s name, God’s reputation, God’s honour and glory! David’s desire, along with his own deliverance, was that through all his troubles, it would become obvious that God, and God alone, was the One who was worthy of praise and glory.

And so he says:

19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love


And so exhorts all of us to:

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.

In one sense, we are “entitled”, not because of anything we have done, or deserve, but only because of the wonderful truth (in Genesis 1) that is described when God created us:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Sadly, sin has marred that image in us and that is why Jesus came. To restore what was at creation, through his life, death and resurrection. To restore us to a place of “entitlement” only available through a right relationship with Him.

And so Paul was able to pray for fellow believers in Jesus:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

All the privileges (“entitlements”) of knowing God are ours in Christ, but like David and Paul, we should consider that the most important thing in life is “the glory and praise of God.”  Hopefully this will be the truth that transforms the present culture of “entitlement” not only amongst some millennials but also amongst many others of us.

Father, thank you for our families and other young friends growing up in what has been called a culture of entitlement. Help us all to understand that if we have any rights at all, it is only by the grace of God. May we all, as Paul puts it, have the same mindset as Christ and Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but each of us to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)  Amen.


# 119 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 30 God’s story – a story of reversals!

Deeper by Liv Vardy

“Deeper” by Liv Vardy (livvardyart.com.au)

As I’m sure you have discovered, during difficult times people can offer some “interesting” (and seemingly shallow) advice. For example, phrases like, “time heals all”, or “you will get over it, we all do”, or “don’t take yourself so seriously”, and of course, “things will all work out ok, so don’t worry”. Often said with the best of intentions, but seldom very comforting!

The psalmist in Psalm 30 offers some deeper and more helpful thoughts (helpful due to the fact of the reality of God), and these from his own experience. He says:

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,                                                                                                                                            but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

The reality is that “the story of God is a story of reversals, of one who turns the tides of history, who brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.” (Pauline Hoggarth, Encounter with God SU Notes) And, on top of this, the One who is able to transform our life’s situations from weeping into rejoicing, and that, even overnight at times.

Consider the Passion Translation on these verses:

I’ve learned that his anger lasts for a moment,
but his loving favour lasts a lifetime!
We may weep through the night,
but at daybreak it will turn into shouts of ecstatic joy.

Another psalmist confirms these truths:

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.               
(Psalm 126:5-6)

The writers of the NT add another dimension to this truth. Paul writes:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.                                        (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Psalm 30 continues:

When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favoured me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

A.B. Rhodes summarizes the narrative as follows:

“In his prosperity the psalmist was guilty of self-sufficiency and a false sense of security. Yet it was God who had established him. Then, as a result of his self-sufficiency and perhaps other sins as well, God removed his favour and the psalmist was sorely troubled. In his illness he cried to God for help. With childlike simplicity he reminded God that his death would mean that he could not praise him further, since those in the Pit could not praise God. But God had granted his petition and turned his mourning into dancing, the sackcloth of sorrow into the festal garments of praise. Faith in God, communion with God, and joyful thanksgiving to God are the keynotes of this psalm.”  (see references # 40)

Suffering of any kind is never fun, and we certainly need to be compassionate and supportive (often in very practical ways) with those in our lives who do suffer, But in the midst of our suffering it is vital to remember God’s promises, such as:

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks…call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you…                                              
(Psalm 50:1, 15).

Too often, Father, we get so caught up in our troubles that the last resort is prayer. Teach us to make calling out to you in the day of trouble the very first thing we do, knowing that you are able to deliver us in your good time. Teach us the truth also that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  Enable us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   Enable us day by day to go deeper with you! Amen.

# 118 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 30 Annus horribilis




It is that time of the year again when we review and reflect upon the key events of the past year. Sadly, despite all the positives, considering some of the negative worldwide events in 2017, one could almost call it another “annus horribilis”, a Latin phrase used by Queen Elizabeth II in November 1992 to describe the royal family’s year. You may have guessed already, but it means “horrible year” (the opposite of “annus mirabilis” meaning “wonderful year”).

So, can I ask you, which of these two Latin terms describes your life in 2017?

Then, the second thing that happens at this time of the year are predictions concerning the future.

On the website msn.com (27.12.17) there is an interesting article with the title “Stephen Hawking Predictions of 2017” and I quote:

“Thanks to modern day healthcare, 100 years is nearly a lifetime, but this May, Hawking proposed that this is how long humans have left on Earth, Wired reported. This is a stark shift backward from the 1,000 years’ time limit that Hawking had predicted in 2016.

According to Hawking in his BBC science series, Tomorrow’s World, climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth are to blame for the new century-long doomsday clock.”

He adds “that humanity’s natural greed would impede us from being able to properly address [these] problems, and that inevitably our best bet is to leave Earth completely…and repopulate somewhere else in the universe, either on a spacecraft or on another planet. The physicist warned that if humans don’t become a multi-planetary species and settle on other worlds, our species could die out within the next century.”


So, if the past events didn’t cause you to feel down about the state of mankind then this prediction (believe it or not) may – unless you know the omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing) God and take into account that He is in control.

Psalm 30 uses some words and phrases which are relevant to all the above. David sounds like, just maybe, he had had an “annus horribilis”. He speaks of haven been “down in the dumps”, as we might say, and is thankful to God for helping him through some difficult times and giving him hope for the future. Listen to his words:

I will exalt you, Lord,     for you lifted me out of the depths     and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help,     and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;     you spared me from going down to the pit.

Later he says:

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;     you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

The psalmist has a simple answer concerning how to deal with hard times – including depressing news about the events of the past and the gloomy predictions for the future – call out to God for help! And in the same way that when we reach out to anyone (parent, friend, doctor, counsellor) to help in our times of need, we need to understand and believe that God is ready and willing to help. This certainly was the psalmist’s experience and it can be yours and mine in this coming year.

The reality is that no matter how bad the events of the previous year were and how gloomy the predictions for the future, the last word spoken will not be from people like Stephen Hawking but will be from God. God and God alone created all things – scientists just discover the wonders and complexity of this creation. God and God alone sustains his creation -while we go about our selfish ways seeking to exploit it. God and God alone knows when the creation as we know it will end as recorded in the Bible as follows:

See, I will create     new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered,     nor will they come to mind.                               (Isaiah 65:17)

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Then in Peter’s second letter he writes:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him… But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  (2 Peter 3)

I think that maybe Mr Hawking should listen to Handel’s Messiah, especially the Hallelujah Chorus, which reminds us of what the Bible teaches concerning God’s sovereignty over his creation:

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. The kingdom of this world Is become the kingdom of our Lord, And of His Christ                                                                                                                                                                     And He shall reign for ever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords, And He shall reign forever and ever, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Father, thank you for being with us in 2017 and we are so very grateful that you have promised to be with us in 2018. No matter what life brings we have this confidence that you, the omnipotent God, reign and one day we will all bow the knee before you acknowledging that you are Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Amen.


# 117 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29 The voice of the Lord


In my last post on Psalm 29 I mentioned that one of the so-called gods worshiped by the Canaanites, neighbours of Israel, was Baal, the “storm god”. Sadly, worship of this false god at times spilled over into Israel and when we get to I Kings 18 this apostacy was having devastating effects upon the people and the land. In fact, the Lord had allowed there to be 3 years of drought in Israel and the prophets of God had told the people that their idolatry was the reason this was happening.

So, enter two of the main characters involved – Elijah, the faithful prophet of God and King Ahab, described as the king who “did more to arouse the anger of the Lord…than did all the kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) Being married to Jezebel, a Sidonian and Baal worshiper, hadn’t helped.

So, they meet after some time and Ahab isn’t too friendly, in fact says, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!” But Elijah clarifies the situation and answers, “It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel, but you…you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals.”

Elijah then challenges the king to a showdown on Mount Carmel. He invites everyone in Israel, including all the false prophets of Baal.  When assembled Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Sadly, the response was that, “Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.” Such was the low spiritual morale of the people at that time.

We then read in the text that, “Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”

Then at last the people responded: “All the people agreed: ‘A good plan—do it!’”

Being a gentleman Elijah told the Baal prophets, “Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you’re the majority. Then pray to your god, but don’t light the fire.”

 So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!” But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.”

That’s the problem with placing your faith in any thing else other than the Lord.

Then we read that somehow Elijah wasn’t surprised and “By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation. You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be [woken] up?” They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood. This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.”

Well, by then Elijah decided enough was enough and “told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.” And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob…He built the stones into the altar in honour of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.”

In contrast to the ranting and raving of the false prophets, we are told that “Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”

And, no surprise to Elijah, Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.

39 All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!”

There is more to the story but a short time later we read, “The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain.”  (1 Kings 18 Message) The drought was broken! Yahweh, the one and only true and living God, the Lord of all creation, had spoken.

We are not given any more information about the storm that brought the rain to that parched land, but just maybe for a while the situation was something like that described in Psalm 29 when:

3–4 The voice of the Lord echoes through the skies and seas.
The Glory-God reigns as he thunders in the clouds.
So powerful is his voice, so brilliant and bright,
how majestic as he thunders over the great waters
His tympanic thunder topples the strongest of trees.
His symphonic sound splinters the mighty forests.
Now he moves Zion’s mountains by the might of his voice,
shaking the snowy peaks with his ear splitting sound!
The lightning-fire flashes, striking as he speaks.
God reveals himself when he makes the fault lines quake,
shaking deserts, speaking his voice.
God’s mighty voice makes the deer to give birth.
His thunderbolt voice lays the forest bare.
In his temple all fall before him with each one shouting,
“Glory, glory, the God of glory!”

What we know did happen though was that the people had no doubt who was the true God.

So, does God still speak to us today? If so, how?

The reality is that God is always speaking in various ways. This is not the problem. The problem is our spiritual deafness.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it like this:

 Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans.But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is.  God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honour beside the great God of heaven.                                (Hebrews 1:1-3 Living Bible)

I, with many around the world can testify that the Bible is God’s Word to us today and through this book he speaks. I went from being a total unbeliever to a follower of Jesus solely from reading the Bible over a 3 month period. Nicky Gumbel (Alpha Series) tells of how he was a lawyer and an atheist and how reading God’s Word transformed his life completely. A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine became a follower of Jesus as a result of reading the Bible in his own language over a period of time. An Afghan Muslim friend living as a refugee in India was transformed having read the Bible and hearing the truth about Jesus. A Buddhist friend in Mongolia met Christians who shared with her the truth from God’s Word and she believed and continues to give her life serving Jesus. And these are just a few of multiple examples of how God is speaking to people today through his Word.

Have you heard his voice? Do you want to hear his voice?

The reality is that we are without excuse as Paul in Romans 1 says:

19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.  (Romans 1:19,20 Living Bible)

And so the writer in Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 95, gives us some important advice:

Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts…

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.                             (
Hebrews 3:7, 8 & 12)

Thank you, Father that Jesus, who is described as the living Word of God (John 1) brings life and light to all who would hear your voice and respond with open hearts. Thank you that in these days those who love you come from all nations of the world. Such is the power of your Word. Speak to me this day. Amen.