Wednesday, March 30, 2022

 Let me affectionately warn you, for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is—little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in His company, little time with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Do not stop at sorrow! Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only, can you get your spirit quickened. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let us go again in all the rags and poverty and defilement of our natural condition. Let us clasp that cross, let us look into those languid eyes, let us bathe in that fountain filled with blood—this will bring back to us our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith and the tenderness of our heart.

C. H. Spurgeon, updated by Alistair Begg

Sunday, March 27, 2022



This psalm is a prayer. It is directed to God. But it is also a song. It was given to the choirmaster to sin according to the tune of “Lilies”. 

A Plea For God To Hear and to Save


Psalm 79 ended with the psalmist referring to Israel as the “sheep of your (God’s) pasture”. Psalm 80 begins with an address to God as the “Shepherd of Israel”. It refers to Israel as a “flock”. Whoever compiled the psalms did so in a manner that kept the theme going.

Sheep and shepherds were common in Israel. They made for good metaphors in describing God’s care of his people and their need for his care. (Psalm 23 for example) Jesus also used this metaphor, calling himself the “Good Shepherd”. (John 10:11 and 10:14)

The psalmist also referred to God as the one who is enthroned upon the cherubim. We have seen this reference several times in the psalms, referring to God’s presence with Israel between the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. (Exodus 25:17-22) It is also a picture of God enthroned in heaven, ruling over creation. 

So the psalmist refers to God’s shepherding relationship to Israel and his presence with them when they still had the ark. He also appeals to God as the one who is sovereign and all powerful to save.

The reference to being before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh is less clear. Some feel it is a reference to the northern kingdom which was defeated and taken into exile by Assyria. That would also explain the context of the psalm. However, the inclusion of Benjamin is a problem, for Benjamin joined Judah in the southern kingdom, not the northern 10 tribes.

A likely explanation takes us back to the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Since the psalmists who wrote from Babylonian captivity wanted a second exodus, a return to Israel, the first Exodus was a good reference for their pleas to God for deliverance. 

When Israel left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness, God instructed them on how to set up their camp by tribes. He also instructed them on the order in which they would march. The tabernacle and the ark remained in the center of the congregation as it marched. Following the tabernacle were the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. (Numbers 2:18-23)

The tribes represent the family of Joseph. Ephraim and Manasseh were his sons. Benjamin was his brother by the same mother, Rachel. (Genesis 35:24) As God led these tribes from captivity, the psalmist wants God to lead Israel from captivity in Babylon. 

So the psalmist pleads with God to come and save them in his mighty power from captivity.

The Chorus


This sentence is used three times in the psalm like a chorus in a hymn. The plea is for God to restore them, to bring them back into the blessings of the covenant. He asks for God to let his face shine. To have God’s face shine on you is to have his favor. This brings to mind the blessing the Lord told Aaron, the high priest, to give to Israel in Numbers 6:22-27:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to Aaron and is sons saying, thus you shall bless the people of Israel, you shall say to them:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them. 

How Long?


As we have seen in several of the psalms of lament, the psalmist asks God how long he will be angry and punish them. They long to be out from under God’s wrath and back in his favor. The psalmist believes their tears are now in full measure - surely they have suffered as much as God’s wrath requires. He also mentions, as have other psalms, that those around them laugh at them and hold them in contempt.

Here the psalmist refers to God as the God of Hosts. He has all the hosts of heaven at his disposal to rescue Israel from Babylon.

Verse 7 repeats the chorus.

Reciting the Exodus


Using the metaphor of the vine, the psalmist recites God’s delivery of Israel from Egypt. God brought the vine from Egypt to Canaan and planted it. It grew until it went from the  Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River. This is the land God promised Israel in Exodus 23:31-33:

And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your and and shall drive them out before you You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in you land, lest they make you sin against me; for it you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.

The Israelites never conquered all of this land and Gentiles did dwell in it. 

In verse 12, the psalmist asks why God has let it be destroyed. He broke down the walls that would have protected it. (12) Enemies, represented by the boar (a wild pig), ravaged the vineyard. Babylon certainly ravaged the land of Israel.

So, he asks God to turn again to Israel and have regard for the vine that he planted. (14-15) He wanted God to rebuke those who burned the vine and cut it down. (16) 

In verse 17, the writer leaves the metaphor of the vineyard for that of a son. He asked God to put his hand on, or to strengthen, the man of his right hand and the son of man that he had made strong. This is referring to Israel as the son of God, indicating its special relationship to God. 

In Exodus 4:22, God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh that Israelis his firstborn son. Deuteronomy 14:1 says that Israelites are the sons of the Lord your God. Sons, and especially first born sons, had privileges because of their relationship and status in the family. Israel had a unique and special relationship and status with God.

You could easily assert that the language also points forward to Jesus, who is the unique and only real Son of God. He would be the true Israel, accomplishing all that Old Testament did not. He now sits at the right hand of God. 

As in Psalm 79, the psalmists ends this stanza by saying that, if God will do these things he asks, Israel will be faithful, calling upon his name.

The psalm closes with a repeat of the chorus, asking for the restoration of God’s favor upon them. 

If a Christian, a believer, strays from God, he or she has a promise of restoration. When we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. (1 John 1:9) Christ lives in heaven as our continuing advocate to the Father. (1 John 2:1)

Sunday, March 20, 2022




This psalm is another lament. This one is for the whole nation of Israel as opposed to one person.

The Occasion for the Psalm: The Destruction of Jerusalem


These verses appear to describe the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Because of this, there are several connections between this psalm and the Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations.

The psalm is a prayer, as the opening words are addressed to God (“O God”). The writer of the psalm must be a descendant of Asaph who is among the remnant of Israel in exile in Babylon.The first four verses have the psalmist pointing out to God what has happened.

The “nations” (v.1) usually refers to Gentiles (non-Jews) in the Old Testament. The King James Version uses the word “heathen”, a word we do not use much any more, but would refer to these people as pagans.

The psalmist laments that the Babylonians came into the land of Israel, defiled the Temple, destroyed the city, and killed many people. They left the bodies on the dead on the ground and did not bury them.

There is a covenantal undertone to these verses. The psalmist refers to God’s land, his temple, his city, and his people. Israel was God’s inheritance. They lived in a place God gave them, but which is now under the control of Gentiles. 

The temple was defiled. Gentiles were not supposed to enter the Temple. But, the Babylonians took sacred objects from it and burned it down. They also destroyed the city, breaking down all of the stone structures and burning all of the wooden ones. 

They killed many people and did not bury them. This was an act of disrespect ignominy or disgrace. Jeremiah prophesied that this would happen: “And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of the who seek their lives. their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.” (Jeremiah 34:20)

You can read about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in four places in the Old Testament: 2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36:11-21, Jeremiah 39:1-14, and Jeremiah 52. 

The destruction brought disgrace on the nation. They were taunted, mocked, and derided by the nations around them for this great loss. They had claimed to be a special people protected by God, but he let them be utterly defeated.

The Call For God To Act


As in many of the psalms of lament, the psalmist asks how long it will be until God gets over his anger with Israel and punishes those who destroyed it. He asks the Lord to pour out his anger on the Gentiles who do not know him or obey him. (6) He wants them punished for what they did to destroy Israel (referred to here as Jacob). 

The psalmist also mentions God’s jealousy, indicating a confession that Israel had gone after other gods\idols. God demanded total loyalty from Israel. He commanded that they have no other gods before him. (Exodus 20:3) He specifically commanded them not to create idols because he is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5) He is intent on preserving his glory and honor and will not tolerate his people worshipping other gods. In mentioning this, the psalmist recognizes Israel’s infidelity to God. They had indeed worshipped idols from other countries.

The psalmist then asked God to pour out his wrath, not on Israel, but on the nations that do not know and worship him. (6) He wants Babylon and its allies held accountable for what they have done to God’s people. Verses 6-7 are identical to Jeremiah 10:25. 

The Prayer For Forgiveness


The psalmist recognized that God’s wrath had been poured out on them because of their wickedness and sin (iniquities). (8) It must have been difficult to be in exile in Babylon and read the warnings God gave them through the prophet Jeremiah. He had asked them “What wrongs did your fathers find I’m that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness and became worthless?”. (Jeremiah 2:5-6) He said “…you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.” (Jeremiah 2:7)

He asked for grace, expressed as God having compassion to come quickly to their aid. (8) He asked for deliverance and atonement for sins, referring to God as “God  of our salvation”. (9) He recognized the connection between their sin and their punishment in exile. Their sin must be atoned for them to be reconciled to God and again receive his blessing and protection. 

The psalmist also asked God to act for the glory of his name. His glory and his reputation among the Gentiles was at stake in the defeat of his people. They even asked “where is their God?”. (10) The psalmist asked God to act to avenge Israel by rectifying their situation and defeating their captor and enemy, Babylon. He wanted Babylon punished sevenfold for what it had done to Israel, a complete and full retribution, because they taunted the Lord. (12)

The Promise To Do Better


In return for God’s deliverance, the psalmist promised that Israel would give thanks and praise to God forever. This is part of repentance, a turning from their sin back to God. They are the sheep of God’s pasture, his flock, and they will want to live that way again.


It is ok to pray for relief from distress. God answered the psalmist’s prayer, though not as soon as the psalmist wanted.

God’s ultimate answer to the psalmist’s prayer for atonement is found in Christ, who has made atonement for our sins by his death on the cross. 

Believers are now God’s people, his “own possession”. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

God will eventually give his people the whole earth, the “new earth”. (Revelation 21-22)

Sunday, March 13, 2022


There are three divisions of the Old Testament scriptures: the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom writings. The Psalms are included in the wisdom writings (some commentators only classify some of the psalms as such). Psalm 78 is a wisdom psalm. It could also be called a didactic psalm because it is one of instruction. 



The psalmist called for the people of Israel to listen (give ear, incline your ears) to his teaching. He will teach in parables, meaning he will tell a story of one thing to teach about the current situation. 

For example, Jesus told a story about the owner and tenants of a vineyard to illustrate a point about Israel rejecting God’s prophets and himself. Here, the psalmist will relate true stories of Israel’s past, in poetic form, to teach them about God and what he is done for them, an to emphasize the importance of passing these truths on to future generations. He called these stories “the glorious deeds of the Lord”.

The remainder of the psalm is the recitation of the Lord’s deeds as he worked with Israel, as well as Israel’s unfaithfulness to him in return.

Establishing a Covenant


God established a covenant with Israel, referred to as Jacob. (5) He had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to himself at Sinai. (Exodus 19:4)  He chose them to be his people and entered into the covenant, which we call the Mosaic Covenant. He dictated the terms of the covenant, since he was the more powerful party to it.

Israel’s duties under the covenant were two fold: to obey God’s laws and to teach them to their children so they would also be faithful to obey. In fact, the psalmist said the should teach their children the works of the Lord so they would not be rebellious like their forefather’s were.

Disobedience of Israel


The psalmist pointed to the unfaithfulness of the nation He referred to them as “the Ephraimites”. 

Ephraim was one of the sons of Joseph, but Jacob blessed him and his brother, Manasseh, and made them tribes of their own as if they were Jacob’s sons.  (Genesis 48) Their allotment was north of Judah. The psalmist uses them to represent the whole nation.

Israel  did not keep the covenant. They did not obey God’s laws. (10) They forgot the things God did for them and the miracles they had seen. The psalmist listed some of these works of God, concentrating on the Exodus. 

He performed wonders in Egypt, the plagues God used to deliver them from Egypt. He parted the sea so they could escape. He led them with a cloud during the day and and the column of fire at night. He provided water even in the wilderness so they had enough to drink. (16)

Despite these miraculous works of God, the Israelites rebelled against God from the beginning. The complained about the food. They even questioned God’s ability to provide food, saying “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?”. (19-20) They complained abut the lack of water.

God Gave Them What They Wanted


The Lord was “full of wrath” at sin and rebellion. He expressed that wrath by sending fire to consume part of the camp. (Numbers 11:1) But, despite being angry at the Israelites for their lack of faith, God gave them a bread from heaven they called “manna”. He also sent quail to them for meat. (Exodus 16 & Numbers 11)

The Unfaithfulness of Israel


This section shows us the sin cycle that Israel indulged in. Despite seeing all of the great things God did for them, the continued to sin. They refused to believe. So, God would punish them. They would then repent. But the repentance did not last. It was replaced with a false praise, saying the right things but not having a faithful heart. 

No time period is specified by the psalmist for this cycle, but it certainly fits the stories of the Book of Judges.

God’s Compassion


Even though Israel was rebellious, God did not destroy them. He had compassion and restraint. He remembered their frailty. They were “but flesh”, and suffered the weaknesses of the flesh. 

A Summary of the Exodus


The psalmist recognized how often the Israelites rebelled and grieved God despite his great works. He listed all of the things God did to redeem them. He listed the plagues God imposed upon Egypt, his leading them in the wilderness, and his giving the land of Canaan to them. 

Rebellion in the Promised Land


Once in the land God gave them, Israel continued to sin and rebel. They turned from God to worship idols. When they did, God acted upon his wrath. In once instance, he gave up Shiloh to the enemy. Shiloh was the first place the Tabernacle was kept. God let the Philistines capture the ark and defeat Israel in battle. They suffered great losses. 

Yet, after a period of time, the Lord again gave them mercy and rescued the Israelites from the Philistines and allowed them to recover the Ark of the Covenant. 

God Chose Judah Over Ephraim


God rejected the tribe of Ephraim and chose the tribe of Judah for leadership. The tabernacle came to Jerusalem, which was in Judah. He also chose David to be king, rejecting Saul and his house. 

David led Israel as God wanted. 

The psalm ends abruptly. The implication is this: if the acts of God in redemption and provision, judgment and mercy, are not remembered and taught to subsequent generations, the Israelites will rebel against God and face his judgment again. And, of course, they did just that.


We must pass the faith along to subsequent generations also.

We must live holy lives to show them how to live so as to please the Lord.

Monday, March 07, 2022

A blessing for today

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everthing good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in is sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Sunday, March 06, 2022




The Cry of Distress


The psalm opens with his intense cry for help to God. He says twice that he actually cries out loud to the Lord in his distress. He also stretched out his hands in supplication. He prayed through the night without getting tired. 

We do not know what the psalmist’s problem was, but he says it was a “day of my trouble”. (2)  It must have been major for him to pray through the night. And still, he could not find comfort for his soul. 

Yet, he prayed from a position of faith, not doubt, for he says “he (God) will hear me”. 

Remembering The Acts of God 


The psalmist then moved to remembering God’s past acts of behalf if Israel. But, it has the opposite effect than you would expect. It increases his anxiety rather than soothing it. He moans. His spirit faints. (3) He cannot sleep. (4) He cannot speak about his distress to others, although he wants to remember songs he used to sing at night.

In this meditations at night, he wants to remember God’s deliverance and find comfort. But, it seems he is approaching it as “if God acted before, why is he not acting now”.  

The Questions


In these verses, the psalmist asks a series of questions, attempting to figure out what the Lord’s attitude is toward Israel and why he has not delivered them. Each question is stated twice for emphasis. 

The first question is “will the Lord spurn forever and never again be favorable? (7) Israel was the object of God’s favor when they kept the covenant. At the time the psalmist wrote, however, they were not experiencing his favor. The psalmist wondered if that would continue forever. Human beings almost always want God to act more quickly than he does.

The second question is “has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?” The words “steadfast love” translate the Hebrew word “hesed”. It refers to God’s covenantal love for Israel. God said he would show steadfast love to thousands of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Exodus 20:6) This was in the context of God forbidding the making and worshipping of idols. As long as Israel kept the commandments, and especially the prohibition against idols, God would show is steadfast love to it. But, if Israel disobeyed, God would act to discipline them. 

This commandment is repeated in Leviticus 26, where God again forbade the making of idols. He also commanded the keeping of the Sabbath and reverence for the sanctuary. If Israel kept these commandments, God agreed to bless them. If they disobeyed the commandments, they were breaking the covenants, and God would impose the curses of the covenant on them. These curses are also listed in Leviticus 26. Evidently, Israel was in a period of disobedience and discipline for breaking the covenant at the time of this psalm. The psalmist wondered how long this would go on.

The third question is “has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”. The mention of God’s anger indicates the psalmist knew Israel was being disciplined for disobedience, but wondered if it was a permanent situation.

Remembering God’s Mighty Deeds


The psalmist turned from asking questions to a reflection on God’s past deeds and miracles. He referred to God as “the Most High” (Elyon). It refers to God as exalted above all others. It is the name Melchizedek invoked to bless Abram after he defeated the four kings who defeated Sodom and captured Lot. (Genesis 14:19) Abram called God the “possessor of heaven and earth”, referred to God’s creating the earth and exercising sovereignty over it. 

The psalmist said he would appeal to the years of the right hand of the Most High. He was saying that he would remember the times when Israel was in God’s favor and benefitted from his power and sovereignty. They prospered economically and were safe from their enemies.

The psalmist also wanted to meditate on God’s specific deeds in the past which saved Israel. This might include the miracles God did to bring Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. It might included David’s victories. The psalmist has thought of God’s power and the times that he exercised it for Israel’s benefit. 

Confidence in God’s Help


Verses 13-15 praise God for his holiness and power, his working of wonders\miracles. God has done many powerful and miraculous things for the benefit of Israel. The psalmist  specifically mentions God redeeming his people, Israel. This is a reference to the Exodus. 

But, God’s miraculous deeds include creation of the earth as he exercised his power over the waters. Genesis 1:9 tells us of God separating the waters to reveal the dry land, creating earth and sea. The psalmist described it in vivid poetic terms: thunder, lightings, and shaking the earth. All of these are terms associated with the appearance of God on the earth. For example, when God appeared on Mount Sinai, there were thunders and lightnings, thick clouds, smoke and fire. The mountain trembled. (Exodus 19)

The last verse narrows the focus of God’s past deeds to the Exodus itself. He created a way through the sea for Israel, referring to the parting of the Red Sea by Moses. 

God led his people like a flock through Moses and Aaron. God is not only the powerful Most High, he is the Good Shepherd that leads his people. The psalmist longed for the time when God would again use his power to lead Israel through its difficulties. 

Jesus is the Good Shepherd for believers. (John 10:11,14). We are his sheep, his flock. He still protects, leads, and guides us. We can take great comfort from that, even in difficult times.