Day #340: Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 3rd
Scripture Reading: Psalms 140 - 142 …
Few emotions weigh on the human soul as much as loneliness. In the very beginning God said of Adam, "It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). In our world today, with all of our modern technology and various means of communication, people seem more "alone" than ever. It may not be a physical aloneness, but rather a spiritual one. Any of us can reach a point where our thoughts revolve only around ourselves, and at times like that the evil one can tempt us into feeling sorry for ourselves or convincing ourselves that no one else cares … we are ALONE!
It is in the midst of those moments that the words of the Psalmist remind us that we who know the living God are never alone because He is always with us. Not only that, He is willing and able to protect us from those who stand against us and from the storms that life brings our way. It is that protection that David is relying on in Psalm 140. "Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; protect me from men of violence, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day" (140:1-2). Evil doesn't take a holiday! Those who overlook evil, or deny that it exists within the human heart, are either blind or foolish or both. God's Word and human experience combine to reveal the truth that evil resides in us by nature. Were it not for the grace of God and the work of His Spirit within us, we would be slaves to sin all our lives. It's interesting that people will admit "sin," but resist the idea that sin IS evil!
God changes all of that for those who know Him and who are controlled by His Spirit. Even in the Old Testament, prior to the pouring out of His Spirit at Pentecost, God worked in some people like David and empowered them to resist the temptation toward idolatry and other rebellious behavior. Clearly, however, they were still affected by that old nature within them. And lest we think that has changed completely, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 7:18-25:
"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord." Paul understood the struggle to resist the pull towards evil and did what David did … sought protection from the God who was with him, who could deliver him, even from the enemy within. "O LORD, I say to You, 'You are my God.' Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy. O Sovereign LORD, my strong Deliverer …" (140:6-7). David was King of Israel, with the mightiest army in the world, yet he relied upon GOD's strength and and protection in his struggle against evil.
Where do you find your protection? When facing trouble, is it God towards whom you turn? David's prayer concerning the destruction of the wicked seems out-of-place, yet he wrote in Psalm 139, verse 21: "Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against You?" Like David, we need to honor God and stand opposed to those who slander His Name. It is not that God needs us to defend Him, but He CALLS us to exalt His Name and to honor Him. We are not engaged in some children's game. We are in a spiritual battle between good and evil, between God and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly (spiritual) realms! So David exclaims, "SURELY the righteous will praise Your Name and the upright will live before You" (140:13).
So he calls on the Lord to help him. We often fail to realize that the circumstances of life tend to present us with many temptations … temptations that when given into cause US pain because they take our eyes off of God and His truth. David recognized these temptations and so he prays, "O LORD, I call to You; come quickly to me … Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil" (141:3-4). When was the last time you prayed like that? Have you EVER prayed like that?! Such a prayer comes from the heart of one whose desire is to please God. This is what Jesus taught His disciples to pray: "Lead us not into temptation!" Many people have asked me why Jesus taught us to pray that, but when understood with the phrase that follows, its meaning becomes clear: "Do not leave me in the place of temptation, but deliver me from evil." That's what David is praying in these verses.
David is willing to have a "righteous man … rebuke" him (141:5). Yet he boldly declares that his "prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers" (141:6). As we have seen so often, there is a distinction between those who live to please the Lord and those who don't. When tempted to gaze upon evil, David states, "But my eyes are fixed on You, O Sovereign LORD; in YOU I take refuge - do not give me over to death" (141:8). Such confidence and hope in the Lord comes only when you and I have an intimate relationship with Him through faith in Jesus. Those who do not know God's love and forgiveness in Christ will never draw near to God for help in times of trouble. You must believe, you must KNOW that you are NOT alone, that He IS with you and will never leave you alone, even for a moment!
Many people remain imprisoned in doubt and fear even after they have professed their faith in Jesus. They become anxious about losing their relationship with God and look constantly for some way to stay close to Him, but God says, "I am all you need!" Jesus said, "Come to ME all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). The "yoke" of Jesus is not constantly trying to measure up or be good enough to earn God's favor, but rather, faith to receive God's grace and forgiveness … faith that leads to the sure and certain hope of salvation through His blood. God IS with me now, and He will be with me the rest of the day and tomorrow and forever!!
From a place of desperation, David could "cry aloud to the LORD … " and "lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy" (142:1). He told the Lord of his troubles (He already knew them!), and confessed that "when my spirit grows faint within me, it is YOU who know my way" (142:3). What a comfort for us who know the LORD as our God today! "I cry to You, O LORD; I say, 'YOU are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living'" (142:5). You can be totally honest with God: "Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; … Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your Name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of Your goodness to me" (142:7).
That must be our goal: to praise God in the midst of the struggle, believing, knowing, testifying that He is all I need … HE is enough. Continually thank God for those He has placed around you to encourage you, to walk this journey with you, but know that HE must be enough in those moments when you find yourself facing that temptation to believe you are alone. Know God's love for you in Jesus and share that love with those around you. Take down the shields, come out from behind the walls that have imprisoned you and experience the freedom that Jesus gives to those who come to Him for protection and deliverance. He will never fail you as you set your eyes on Him, "the Author and Perfecter of your faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
"Heavenly Father, it is to You that David came, and it is to You that I come today, asking for protection and deliverance from temptation and evil. I praise Your Name, O LORD my God, and come near to You with confidence through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ, my Redeemer. Give me wisdom and grace to rest in Your arms and to stand boldly against the evil all around me … and at times still within me. Thank You for the victory that overcomes the world through the power of Your Spirit, for greater is He that is in ME, than he that is in the world. In Jesus' name, Amen"