My Light


The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? (Psalm 27:1)


When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world…” (John 8:12), He was hinting at His identity with the God of the OT. Though the connection might seem rather remote to our non-Jewish ears, it must have been tantalizing—dangerously so—to ears steeped in the Jewish scriptures. Such language was appropriate to God, about whom David said, “The Lord is my light ….” Further, we read:

For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness. (Ps 18:28)

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. (Mic 7:8)

Through Isaiah’s prophecy, Israel anticipated a coming day when God would fully and tangibly light up the world by His very presence:

“Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over.” (Is 60:20)

As David faced his enemies, who threatened his very life, his first truth to fall back on was that “[t]he LORD is my light.” What does this mean? There is nothing special about the word “light” in its basic meaning. But here, in its figurative use, it speaks of how the Lord gives brightness and clarity—not to enable us to see in the dark, but to give us a clear understanding of our situation. David was not content to passively accept what he could not change, pleading ignorance and appealing to God’s unknowable reasons for the bad stuff in his life. Rather, in faith, he reminded himself as he wrote that God gives clarity to our perception of what is going on. David could see clearly that God was “my salvation” and “the defense of my life.” Therefore, how could he possibly fear anyone or anything?

In the midst of his dark circumstances, threats on his life, his desire was not snuffed out, namely, to clearly “behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple” (Ps 27:4b). The Lord gives light to see Him:

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek. Do not hide Your face from me ….” (Ps 27:8–9)


Lord, help me see the light of Your face and throw away the world’s blinders.


 

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My King


16 The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. 17 O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear (Psalm 10:16–17)


Kingship portrays majesty, highness—being far above the common people. We easily envision crowns, thrones, ornate robes and innumerable attendants. Kings are busy doing, well, kingly things—which are a far cry from the ordinary lives of the “hoi polloi” (a Greek phrase for the common people) or the “am ha’aretz” (a Hebrew phrase meaning the same, literally “people of the land”). The classic tale “The Prince and the Pauper” tells the story a boy raised in royalty wanting to know what life is like for “regular” people, apart from all the privilege and luxury. Some young people born into upper society circles use the slang name “Norm” as a derogatory reference to normal people—those of lower, more common social status. The rich associate with the rich, and even among the upper reaches there is a hierarchy based on status, wealth and prominence. We human beings tend to stratify our social relationships.

But not God! We could use the analogy of the prince becoming a pauper to depict Christ’s incarnation. We see many times in the Old Testament both the kingliness of God and His associating with the lower ranks of mankind. He did not keep Himself aloof. In our verse today, He is majestic and powerful and also listens to those of more humble condition. A king, in context of the ancient world, was the top dog, the mightiest warrior who rose to the most prominent of leadership roles. He led in battle, and he had proven himself greater than all other men. His majesty flowed from the accolades and glory attributed to his greatness. He clearly stood out among all men.

Our God is the greatest of all, above all gods. In human terms, He is king forever—He is able to destroy whole nations! Yet it is not beneath Him to hear and respond to the “desires of the humble…. [and] strengthen their heart…” In other words, we have a ready audience with God.

Psalm 84:3 portrays “[t]he swallow [who has] a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God” (Ps 84:3). So also God accepts our presence as much as the birds. Once, while I was riding in a taxi cab in Bangkok, Thailand, the driver kept referring to the leader of his country as “my king” with a sense of intimacy, like he knew the monarch personally. Likewise, we can refer to God, the Creator of the universe, as “my King,” for not only do we know Him, but He knows us personally.


Lord, You are my King. And I am thankful that You know me.


 

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My Hope


4 Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man, 5 For You are my hope; O LORD God, You are my confidence from my youth. (Psalm 71:4–5)


One asks for help because one believes that the person being asked can in fact help. Otherwise why ask? A child asks a father to help, implicitly believing the father can in fact help. The only question is whether the father will help. The child believes the answer will be “Yes” – otherwise why ask? These things seem simple, but in a more adult view of things, we are speaking of hope. Someone has defined hope as “desire with expectancy.” We want something to happen, and we fully anticipate that it will happen.

The psalm writer was in a predicament, being under siege by an enemy of some sort (“wrongdoer and ruthless man”). We might envision him taking protection in a cave and relating this to the Lord’s protection: “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge … Be a rock of habitation in which I may continually come … You are my rock and my fortress” (Ps 71:1-3). We don’t know for sure who the author was, but if it was David, then the only person he really feared was Saul, and that only because he refused to fight against “the Lord’s anointed” regardless of how much Saul sought to kill him.

In keeping with his integrity, he found himself in a closed-in situation, with no escape presenting itself, so he cried out to the Lord. One might think the Lord’s response would be to give him strength and courage to go out and attack his pursuer, but that solution is not prescribed by God – though it may be such an action might be taken. The point is that it is not one’s courage or ability that somehow is goal of God’s answer to the prayer—the mentality that “if you believe, then you can do it” sort of thing. Rather, the psalm writer believed it was God Himself who would deliver him from this mess. How often do we see God sending a plague on an enemy army, confounding them with rumors that turn them away, or orchestrating various other completely unexpected phenomena or events? Faith does not simply overlay a spiritual worldview of events; faith believes God to be really at work in the world.

To say, “You are my hope” is to believe that God will do what you ask. This is something forged over time as we continually experience God answering our prayers for help. The very next verse testifies that, “By You I have been sustained from my birth …” (Ps 71:6). This must become our life habit, to give God credit for the work He has done and continues to do in our lives. That is what gives us hope to trust Him in whatever comes our ways.


Lord, when I consider all You have done for me, I praise You as “My Hope.”


 

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My Help


“You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance” (Psalm 22:19).


We all need help at times, though often we don’t admit it. Asking for help admits to neediness. But in this world we sometimes face things much greater than ourselves, and no amount of bolstering our courage will save us from whatever befalls us. David calls out, “You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance” (Ps 22:19). If we understand this to be part of a Messianic psalm, the first line of which our Lord Jesus quoted on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1), then even He needed help when pinned to the cross for our sins. Repeatedly we see the psalm writers expressing the need for help: “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (Ps 33:20). “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul” (Ps 54:4). Even at the creation of humanity, we see an implicit need for helpers: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him’” (Gen 2:18). We all need help.

Job suffered greatly, and if anyone needed help, it was he. Yet Job didn’t want help; he wanted relief through answers. So he attempted to wrestle with his Creator, who simply refused to engage him in his philosophical, rational, logical reasoning. God’s definitive, argument-ending statements shut Job down completely: “Who is this …?” (Job 38:2), “Where were you …?” (Job 38:4), “Have you ever in your life …?” (Job 38:12). God challenged this creature called Job to consider his place in the order of creation. To be sure, as a human Job was created in God’s image, and to use theological terms, we humans are charged with being co-regents with God to oversee creation. But that does not give Job or us a special standing to challenge our Creator to a logical duel.

“The LORD said to Job, ‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?’” (Job 40:2). Finally, Job responded, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?” (Job 40:4), and, “Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Then God helped Job, relieved his suffering and restored to him all that he had lost and more.

We cannot expect help from God if we are busy trying to create a self-sustainable life. God wants to help us, but only on His terms. He is not obligated or compelled. Rather He does it graciously, even though we deserve none of it. When we believe that and we approach Him humbly, then we don’t doubt His care for us, because it doesn’t depend on our worthiness.


Father, thank You for being my Help in my times of need.


 

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My Glory


But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. (Psalm 3:3–4)


There are at least two senses in which this can be taken (discerning minds might see more). The first is that the Lord is glorious and “I” particularly glory in Him. Many people desire to glorify God, but for “me,” regardless of what others do, “I” as an individual am focused on glorifying Him personally. Indeed, there are times when we glorify God in a congregation. But other times we glorifying Him individually.

To glorify God is to make Him known and show how great He is, so that others also may glorify Him. The collective whole of God’s image bearers were made to reflect God, who created them and in whose image they were fashioned. This is accomplished as individuals reflect that image back to Him, so that He sees Himself in us. I cannot simply assume God receives glory from me because I am connected with a group of believers who give Him glory. It must begin with me; I must be able to say unreservedly that He is “my glory,” that is, He is the one I glorify.

The second sense in which we might say He is my glory is that as I reflect His glory, I become glorious with His glory. His glory, as it were, splashes luminescently over me, like a mirror fills with the glory of someone who is beautiful. The light in the reflection is virtually as bright as the actual light. In other words, I become glorious as I more clearly reflect His glory.

Could this be what Paul writes about? “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). As the mirror needs buffing to bring out the reflective image, so also God buffs us with the trials of life, a kind of abrasive that smooths us out: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Co 4:17). The weight of glory refers to a positive, substantive reflection of God in our lives. As the mirror shares in the substantive glory of the object which it reflects, so also we share in the glory of God. We can say, increasingly, He is “my glory.”

For the psalmist, in the midst of his difficulty, he calls out to God whom he believes will lift him out of his troubles. In this expression of faith, he glorifies God, and thus we note him for his steadfast faith – which reflects well on God. God is worthy of our trust. Truly, we can say the Lord is “my glory.”


Glorious Lord, I desire to live a buffed life so that I can reflect You well.


 

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My Exceeding Joy


4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God. 5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 43:4–5)


Carrying on from Psalm 42, the thirsty soul cries out to God from a spiritually depressed state: “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” – he writes three times in these two psalms (42:5, 11; 43:5). The similar content, wording and style, along with the repeated refrain, lead most commentators to see in these two psalms one original poem. We are unable to identify the specific author, though Psalm 42 is connected to the choir associated with the “sons of Korah” as indicated in the prescript.

Does this not reflect the sometime experience of the conscientious believer during certain spiritual dry spells in life? The inner self-talk often betrays unbelief in the superficial believer, but here it reveals the thoughts of a godly person who wrestles honestly with his own inner struggles of trusting in the Lord. We are reminded of the father of the demon-possessed son. Jesus had responded to the crowd, “O unbelieving generation …” Then He said to the father, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The man honestly confessed, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus, seeing the man’s integrity and honest struggle with faith (contrary to the scribes and the crowd in general), went on to heal the son (Mark 9:19-24).

This man’s struggle reflected the struggle of Psalms 42 and 43. A faithful man believes but struggles with his own unbelief—an admitted oddity or self-contradiction, but nonetheless a reality in the genuine believer’s life. In the midst of spiritual depression, the genuine believer counsels himself with the belief that at the end of the day, God is “my exceeding joy.” He may not always be experiencing God in that way, but he knows that is the attraction, the draw, the hope that keeps him from giving up in his despair. This is why Paul could say, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels … we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing …” (2 Cor 4:7–8).

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor 4:17). That glory is to rest in God who is “my exceeding joy.” All sorrow, struggle, suffering and pain are eclipsed by the anticipation of exceeding and everlasting joy. A joy that cannot fade away. A joy that we can begin to experience, even in the midst of our trials now.


Lord, in my struggles, I want to believe that You are “my exceeding joy.” Sometimes I find that difficult, but I resolve to keep trusting in You.


 

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My Cup


The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. (Psalm 16:5).


Pleasant or bitter experiences of life fill our cup. In Psalm 23, David’s “cup overflows” with “goodness and mercy” (Ps 23:5b-6a). James and John expressed their misguided desire to “drink the cup” that Jesus was about to drink, referring to His suffering (Matt 20:22, Mark 10:39). Jesus Himself prayed three times for the cup to “pass from Me,” referring to His coming passion and death on the cross.

The wicked will have their cup filled with “fire and brimstone and burning wind” (Ps 11:6); they will “drink down its dregs,” that is, from the cup in the hand of the Lord (Ps 75:8). But of all the possible life experiences that can fill the cup of those who are faithful followers of the Lord, the greatest is our salvation:

What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD. (Ps 116:12–13).

So, in the most general way, the psalm writer, David, rejoices that “The LORD is … my cup.” Earlier he said, “You are my LORD; I have no good besides You.” There is nothing better with which to fill your life than God Himself. Why? Because the LORD has given you a pleasant heritage (vs. 6, 2), the Lord instructs you, (vs. 7), 3) God’s powerful presence is always close by (vs. 8), you have a hope beyond the grave (vs. 10), you have been given the path of life (vs. 11a) and, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (vs. 11b).

Today life is filled with many superficial things that can populate our hearts and minds with idle and worthless thoughts. People are busier than ever with entertainment, sports, hobbies, money and vacations. Success is too often measured by how many things one has acquired. Many Christians fill their cup with these things to offset the sorrow and difficulty of life that seems to overflow their cup.

The psalm writer chose to focus on the Lord, to let the Lord fill his cup with Himself. In saying “the LORD is my cup,” David defines his life experiences by what God is doing in and through him. There is little room for any other contents when life is filled with the Lord.


Lord, I want to fill my cup of life experiences with You, and not waste my life on superficial or worthless things.”


 

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My Counselor


I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. (Psalm 16:7).


David learned early in life, on the hillsides of Judea, as he watched over his father’s flocks, to order his mind to the Word of God. Being from a faithful family who knew the Law, and judging from his later writing of Psalm 119 and his extended devotion to the Law, he had committed the Word of God to memory. Remember, back in the early part of the first millennium B.C. there were no printing presses, and certainly no pocket Bibles. What could be known or learned about the Word of God was from that recited in the temple or taught in the home, in obedience to Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

So lying under the night-time sky David rolled the Word of God over and over in his mind, and used it to teach himself wisdom. Although alertness to predators or wandering sheep was an ever-present responsibility for a shepherd, there was plenty of time to just think. There are only so many stones one can throw for entertainment. When a young man’s mind easily wanders into fleshly thoughts at idle times, David, judging by the place God’s Word had in his life, must have spent his “idle time” meditating on what he had been taught. Can we not hear this echo in his later writings? For example,

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. (Ps 119:9–11)

In the Word of God, he found the Lord as a counselor. Although we don’t see many times when the Lord explicitly told David to do something, we see David acting in ways that reflect a man who knew his God and was supremely loyal to Him. He knew what God would want him to do; he didn’t often have to stop and ask. That wisdom is often overshadowed by David’s selfless commitment, courage, and compelling leadership. Yet it was from the spiritual counsel learned from the Word that he knew God would protect him as he faced the giant whom no one else had the faith to confront, waited patiently for God to take out the king (Saul) who had lost his divine anointing, recovered from his moral failure, and resisted taking revenge on a rebellious son. The key: He instructed himself in the Word of God.


Lord, I bless You for the wisdom You have given in Your Word, as my Counselor. I desire more spiritual wisdom, so I can walk in ways more pleasing to You.


 

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My Confidence


5 For You are my hope; O LORD GOD, You are my confidence from my youth. 6By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You. (Ps 71:5-6).


“Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance,” as the NASB editors have titled this psalm, summarizes it well. To young ears maybe not so much, but in the hearing that comes from age, the picture is clear:

O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. (Ps 71:17–18).

The psalm writer—was it David, proficient as he was with the harp? (Ps 71:22)—is facing a crisis, age not excusing him from life’s harshness. Yet with a lifetime of trusting in God, he knows from experience that He will protect him. The first words that drip from his quill resonate a life of trust: “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge” (Ps 71:1). He has in the past, and he continues into his present circumstance. He has done as Paul in the NT instructs:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you … (Col 3:16)

The Word “richly dwells” in us when we know the Word of God, believe it to be absolutely trustworthy and rest in it during all trials of life. It becomes a life habit. God in His Word has proven reliable, essential and indispensable. Learning from this, we can say God has sustained us from our birth – are we not here and reading these words at this very moment? Despite life circumstances, broken or disappointing relationships, physical difficulties and sickness, failures and sin, we have made it this far. If there is one thing faith teaches us over the years of walking with the Lord, it is that despite our fears and anxieties, He is the God of the ever-present now. And therein is our confidence.

Nothing can shake us: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38–39).

Because we are loved by God and we have hope in Him, then we can have confidence as we face life’s trials. Nothing can get to us, unless God in His divine sovereignty has allowed it to shape us for praising His Son.


Lord, not in fear or anxiety, I choose to walk in confidence, knowing that my trials give me opportunity to praise You before others for the hope You give me.


 

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Most High Over All the Earth


1 O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. 2 For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves … 18 That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:1-2, 18)


People of God have always had their detractors. Whether the OT Jews, the NT Christians, or persecuted Christians around the world today, believers have always faced varying degrees of opposition and oppression. If non-believers mocked Christ on the cross, they will do no less to His followers.

The greatest test of faith is God’s silence in the midst of our difficulties, especially when we are persecuted for our faith. Noble, heroic tales of illustrious martyrdoms fascinate us in our youth, inspiring dreams of giving our all for Christ. But when faced with demands to recant our faith, to ease up the pressure, we hear no rousing music in the background, nor flowing oratory of valiant prose describing to an unseen audience our courageous actions. Often there is just silence. Deafening silence. There is no greater screaming silence than the taciturn absence of a response from God.

Great men and women of faith through the millennia have experienced this same thing—even the psalm writers. Even Jesus Christ Himself. On the cross we hear Him cry out the theme verse of Psalm 2, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46, Ps 22:1a). The psalm goes on to say, “Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest” (Ps 22:1b-2).

We desire more than just an answer to our own personal discomfort. We have dared to believe there is a God, and that He is the Creator over all. So when we see evil seeming to dominate the world, and evildoers arrogantly puffing themselves up in sinfulness and distortions of justice, selfishness and brutal oppressions, we want them and the whole world to know there is accountability to God. No matter what happens on the earth, no matter how powerful any political despot or neighborhood bully, workplace harasser or domestic abuser—there is a God to whom all will answer.

Along with the psalmist we plead with God to speak up, to let all know that He is “the LORD…the Most High over all the earth.” He is above presidents, kings, dictators, bosses, manipulators, abusers, bullies, racist bigots, earthquakes, hurricanes or bombs. He is the Most High.


Lord, even when You are silent, I know You are in control. My desire is for You to show Yourself now, plainly, and to put all evildoers in their place now.


 

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