I love watching my children grow. They transform from these tiny humans who need diapers and can't even walk into grown adults. I remember my oldest child when he was little. He was the cutest little boy you ever saw! Now he is a grown man in the Army. My younger son is just about to hit his main growth spurt. Just as his older brother changed before my eyes, I am witnessing it happen all over again.
In our Christian lives, there are many areas that grow and develop as we mature spiritually. When I read Psalm 66, I was confronted with one area of my Christian life that still seems to be in its infancy stage. I thought I was doing well, but as I dig in God's Word, the Spirit is revealing the truth of where I am. What area is lagging behind in its growth?
Psalm 66:2 "Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious."
This last year or two, I began dabbling in cake decorating. At first I made cakes that were quite hideous, but they were colorful and creative. As a friend took me under her wing to teach me a few things, my cake skills blossomed a little more. They were at least photo worthy. Now I am no expert, but at least I no longer blush at my attempts. But I have a friend online that is a professional cake decorator. He makes elaborate cakes that are magazine worthy. They truly are glorious to behold. They are worthy of being presented before a bride and groom or for a milestone birthday or anniversary.
As I read Psalm 66, I am struck by the phrase "make his praise glorious". When I look at my praise to my God and my Saviour, I think my praise more resembles my first attempts at cake decorating. It isn't very beautiful, though it comes from a heart that desires to worship. Just as my cakes tasted good in spite of their appearance, my praise even in its infancy stage makes my Father smile. He is pleased. But isn't He worthy of glorious praise?
Even more than I desire to develop as a cake decorator, I desire my praise to grow and be fit for the wonderful Saviour and Lord that He is. Just as I needed my friend to teach me cake decorating, I need God to teach me how to praise. Psalm 66 is a great place to start.
How do we make His praise glorious?
I have many times had my children bring me something they made for me out of love that didn't look very beautiful. I smiled and accepted it because I know they did their best. Their "cakes" were precious to me. I often picture my praise before the Father being the same way. As pitiful as it looks, He smiles at me and accepts it. As I grow as a Christian, though, I want to learn to make His praise glorious. He is worthy of the best and so much more.
Our family certainly is adventurous. We love trying new things. Mountain biking, rock climbing, snorkeling, white water rafting... Daddy and the oldest boy even went paragliding. The rest of us are wanting in on some of that action! Maybe next time.
One of the surprising activities we discovered is available here is archery. I loved it from the first time I went! We went in this large room. Across the room were several targets posted on a wall. On our side of the room there was a line on the floor. We were not allowed to cross that line while shooting was going on. We had to shoot at the targets from a distance. That's the nature of bows and arrows. They must be shot from a distance.
Psalm 64:2-4 "Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not."
The wicked aim at their targets from a distance. They sharpen their tongues and words and speak in secret. Like an archer who keeps his distance for safety and to hit his target, these people make sure they are not close to those who they want to hit when they release their weapons.
Have you ever had an attack like that? Have you ever listened to an attack upon someone else? Have you ever been guilty of shooting verbal arrows at someone from a distance?
Gossip is no laughing matter. Slander is an evil practice. God doesn't look lightly upon those who use their tongues as weapons.
Psalm 64:7 "But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded."
God also has words that are weapons. His Word is sharp and cutting.
Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
God's Word is true and it hits right to the heart. His Words hit their target every time. He will defend the upright.
1) If someone shoots arrows of gossip or slander your direction, trust the Lord to fight the battle for you. Don't be afraid of the arrows of the wicked and trust in the arrows of the Lord.
Psalm 64:1-2 "Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:"
2) If someone approaches you to shoot arrows at someone else, put a stop to it. Don't take part in their wickedness.
Proverbs 20:19 "He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips."
3) If you are shooting arrows at someone, being a talebearer or a gossip, stop it! You are behaving like the wicked!
Proverbs 6:16-19 "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
An untested faith is an unreliable faith.
It is easy to say we trust the Lord completely, but when we are put through the heat of trials, that's when the depth of our faith will be revealed. David knew about the refining and revealing nature of trials. He gives two main declarations:
1) Trust only in the Lord.
Three times in this Psalm, David uses the word "only" in reference to God.
Psalm 62:2 "He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved."
Psalm 62:5-6 "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved."
Wait ONLY upon God. He ONLY is my rock.
We declare we completely trust Him, but when trials come, what do our actions, attitudes, and words say we trust? David said there was a temptation to trust in other things.
Psalm 62:10 "Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them."
Oppression: strength, "strong-arming" your problems, control
When a trial comes along, do you depend on inner strength? Fortitude? Positive attitude and nature? Talents? Skills? Don't trust in how you can control (oppress) the situation. David was tempted in this area. As king, he had access to a great army. He had amazing resources at his disposal, and yet he chose to trust in his God.
Robbery: Taking something that isn't yours.
When a trial comes your way, do you resort to things that are off-limits to Christians? Do you scheme and plot? Do you try to use your own logic to solve the problem instead of following the lead of the Spirit and God's Word? Sometimes God has a plan that doesn't make sense logically. He sometimes tells us "no" to things that aren't necessarily sin... they just aren't His will for us. When we try to go down a path that God says no to, it is like robbery. That isn't our path to take.
Riches: Financial security, assets, and resources. House, job, bank account, car, health, etc.
When trials come, is your confidence in your resources? Do you think your job is secure? Do you think your home is safe? If God allows these things to be taken away, will your faith be shaken? Will you be consumed with depression? Will you still serve Him if your health is taken from you?
2) Trust in Him at all times... good and bad!
Psalm 62:8 "Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah."
It is so easy to praise Him and trust Him when things go smoothly, but the real test begins when things are not easy or comfortable. David says to trust Him at all times. He says to learn to make calling out to Him your first resort and your battle plan for when trials come instead of relying on your strength, logic, or financial stability.
What do you do when trials come? When the next trial hits, take note of what you default to in order to solve the problem.
A mountain-high to-do list...
Cooking, cleaning, shopping, grading, mopping...
I am overwhelmed.
A schedule towers over me...
A wedding, traveling, appointments, commitments...
I am overwhelmed.
The language barrier casts a cold shadow over me...
Classes, studying, writing practice, listening, speaking, stuttering, stammering...
I am overwhelmed.
Ministry hovers over me...
Preparing, teaching, cutting, planning...
I am overwhelmed.
The avalanche begins its descent. Toppling. Rumbling. Threatening. Pursuing.
I call out.
Psalm 61:2 "From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
He hears. He is there.
His wings to cover me.
A Tower to lift me.
A Shelter to protect me.
A Rock to hide me.
I am safe in the Rock that is higher than I...
Above the avalanche of worries and woes.
No longer overwhelmed.
Praises pouring forth.
Psalm 61:8 "So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows."
I can't hide it. I am a pretty patriotic person. I love hosting the July Fourth annual party for fellow laborers in this country. I love decorating in red, white, and blue. I love displaying the American flag. It means something special to me. One year, I hosted a homeschool day and it was about the American flag: what it means, the history, and flag protocol. It was a great day of projects, games, and hands-on learning. I taught the group of homeschool students how to properly fold the flag. The Stars and Stripes still mean something special to me even though I live in a new country.
Flags (banners) mean something. They can be used to represent a group. They can be used to communicate. They can be used to declare a status or situation.
Psalm 60:3-4 "Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah."
In Psalm 60, David describes a difficult situation. In the beginning of the Psalm, David explains that God was chastising His people. They had turned their backs on Him, and God responded with severe discipline. It was painful and costly! The things that God did left the children of Israel standing in awe and astonishment. They were hard things! Then David switches gears and talks about a banner (flag) that is displayed because of truth. What does that have to do with this battle and chastisement? It will make more sense if you see the other flag in this Psalm.
Psalm 60:1 "O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again."
There is a white flag of surrender. David hoists this flag high in fear and reverence to his God. His flag of surrender declares, "You are right, Lord. We deserve this. Our sin has earned this. Please have mercy and turn Thyself to us again!"
As David humbled himself, his banner of surrender turned into a banner of victory and truth. Those who fear the Lord hold this banner high. It is a banner that declares God's holiness that must judge sin. It is a banner that declares God's mercy that reaches out to man. It is a banner that declares God is true to His Word and that His Word is true. It is a beautiful banner that is precious to those who know the Lord and treasure His character and nature. They fear Him and love Him. We can all carry this banner, but only if we first hoist the banner of surrender and repentance when we realize we have sinned against our God.