Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Psalms

Flood Insurance

Few things grab your attention the way flood waters do. 

Twice my wife and I have had significant flooding in the basement of two different houses. Once, a heavy rainstorm overwhelmed the storm sewers in our neighborhood and the water backed up through the floor drain. We had knee deep water in the basement. We had to replace our furnace, and we lost boxes and boxes of memorabilia. I remember watching a box of waterlogged books floating its way across the basement. 

Another time we also had a heavy rainstorm and the basement sump pump died. The main damage was to the flooring, which had to be replaced. But it took a lot of effort to get the floor cleaned and sanitized, to move the furniture around, and then eventually tile the basement floor. 

You can’t always anticipate when flooding will occur, but you can prepare for it. That’s true with houses and it’s true with spiritual disasters. 

David said, “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him” (Psalm 32.6). 

Psalm 32 is a penitential psalm about forgiveness. David had confessed his sin to God and God forgave him. In the first four verses, David describes the relief he felt when he experienced God’s forgiveness. In v. 6, David uses the imagery of flood waters to teach a lesson to spiritually alert people. They should always be on the lookout for sin and do everything in their power to avoid it. The second part of verse 6 gives the reason: If they’ve prepared for the storm beforehand, the flood waters won’t reach them. 

The time to buy flood insurance is before the flood hits. After the basement floods, it won’t do you much good. The time to prepare for a spiritual flood is before the temptation or trouble arrives. While the storm is raging, lack of preparation can be fatal.  

As David says, let’s pray to God when he may be found. Let’s prepare for temptation and trouble with daily prayer and Scripture meditation. Then and only then will we be safe from the flood waters. 

Unanswered Prayer

Can you be thankful when God says “No” to your prayers?

We often lament when our prayers go unanswered. Maybe God hasn’t said “Yes” or “No” but simply hasn’t answered at all. Perhaps God’s answer is a clear and unmistakable “No.” Then, we wonder what’s wrong. Is something wrong with us? We wonder and we lament.

Psalm 44 is a lament by the nation of Israel when they were defeated in battle. The first half of the psalm reflects upon God’s past victories and affirms Israel’s faithfulness. Verse 6 says, “I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me.” Verse 8 says, “In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to your name forever.”

Yet God allowed them to be defeated. Verse 9 says, “Yet you have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, and do not go out with our armies.” The text provides no explanation and emphasizes Israel’s bewilderment at their situation. They ask, “Why do you hide your face” (v. 23a).

Perhaps the answer is that God’s “No” is really intended to help us, even if we don’t understand.

  • What if God said “No” to your dream job because he knew it would take you away from your family?
  • What if God said “No” to healing a loved one because that person’s doctors might learn something that would help future patients with the same condition?
  • What if God said “No” to that special house because he knew that it would put you in a financial bind?
  • What if God said “No” to finding a spouse because it might mean less devotion to and dependence upon him?

Too often our responses to unanswered prayer reveal a lack of thoughtfulness about God and his ways, and they reveal a short-sightedness about his providence toward us. When we whole-heartedly trust him, he always does what is best for us. Even when he tells us “No”.

That’s how Psalm 44 resolves itself. It accepts the answer, even though there’s no explanation. The nation determines to continue seeking God, even though they don’t understand. Verses 17-18 say, “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten you, and we have not dealt falsely with your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from your way.” It ends with a final appeal: “Rise up, be our help, and redeem us for the sake of your righteousness” (v. 26).

Thank God that sometimes he says “No.” Thank him, pray to him, and hope in him.


Many of us are required to have an ID badge or tag or card to get into our workplace. It’s a security measure. It the employer’s way of saying,” I need to know that you are who you claim to be. I need to know that you belong here.” So, in our day-to-day affairs we understand the importance of these credentials.

Let’s apply this to our public worship. What if you needed an ID to enter public worship. What if the Lord wanted each of us to prove to him every Sunday that we are, in fact, his people. What if God required each of us to prove that we belong in a sacred assembly. What kind of ID do you think would work?

Psalm 15 provides at least a partial answer. Some scholars view it as an “entrance liturgy”, which means that it may have been used in Israel’s public worship when people arrived at the temple for national festivals. The worshipper would approach a priest or gatekeeper with a request to enter, and the priest would reply with the requirements of entry.

In Psalm 15, the entrance question is stated in verse 1: “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” 

Then the priest or gatekeeper would reply in verse 2: “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.” 

In fact, the remaining three verses of Psalm 15 elaborate on verse 2. They describe the character of the citizen of Zion, the one who belongs in the Lord’s assembly.

What Psalm 15 is saying is that the credentials for a worshipper of God – the ID badge, if you will – is his or her godly life. This in no way means that our good works and good character have merited a place for us in God’s assembly. The very fact that God allows and encourages us to worship him is an act of grace. But it’s still sobering to think that our character either qualifies us for worship or disqualifies us. 

This week, work on your credentials. Are you ready to worship?

The $86,400 Gift Card

Imagine getting a special gift card for Christmas. Before you can use it, you must activate it. After you activate it, you must spend the entire balance in 24 hours. It comes preloaded with $86,400. You can’t combine it with other funds to make a larger purchase. You can’t save any for additional purchases tomorrow because the balance goes to $0.00 after 24 hours. You can’t share your card with anyone else, and others can’t share their cards with you. You may spend your funds in any way you desire. 

What would you do with such a gift card? You’d spend it of course! I think most people understand that with gift cards you use it or lose it.

In fact, you DO have something like that. It’s called TIME. Each day has 24 hours, each hour has 60 minutes, and each minute has 60 seconds. That works out to be 86,400 seconds per day. Your daily allotment of time works the same way as your imaginary gift card. You begin each day with the full amount, and at the end of the day, you have nothing leftover. You can’t save any of today’s time to use tomorrow, and you can’t borrow any of tomorrow’s time for today. You can’t give any of your time allotment to other people, and other people can’t give you theirs. You may spend your time in any way your desire.

I’m not sure why it’s the case, but most people I know have a better appreciation for money than they do for time. Perhaps it’s because money is more tangible, or at least the things it will buy are tangible. Time, on the other hand, is more of a concept, and an elusive one at that. Often the things we do with time are intangible, and the benefits are also intangible. 

Regardless of the reason, we would all do well to understand that time is one of our most valuable assets. In many ways, it’s the great equalizer. Not everyone has money or prestige or power. Everyone has time. In fact, everyone has the same amount of time available to them: 86,400 seconds per day. That’s true for me, for you, for the CEO, for the President of the United States, for Moses, and for Jesus himself. The difference isn’t the amount of time we each possess, it’s what we do with the time we possess.

Moses said, “For all our days have declined in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90.9-10). He was saying that life is a struggle. 

But his conclusion was more hopeful: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (v. 12).

As we begin this year, may God bless each of us with a full year’s worth of time, and an awareness of the value of time, and most of all the wisdom to use it well. 


Do you remember in science class a thing called “inertia”? The popular definition is that “bodies at rest stay at rest, bodies in motion stay in motion.” It’s why a car traveling 60 mph don’t easily stop. It’s also why a car sitting at a stoplight takes a few moments to get back up to speed. 

Inertia may also explain Mondays and Fridays. When we’re at rest, we tend to stay at rest. Mondays come and we’ve been relaxing for a few days, and inertia makes it difficult to start. Likewise on Fridays we’ve been hard at work for several days, and inertia makes it difficult to slow down.

How do you prevent inertia from taking control of your life? How do you overcome it when you’re sluggish and don’t want to start? How do you slow it down when you need to relax? 

One verse that has always been helpful to me is Psalm 118.24: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If I knew nothing at all about this verse, it would still be a boost for me when I’m struggling.

However, if we dig deeper, it has even more significance. Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving psalm that begins with a familiar formula: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his lovingkindness is everlasting” (v 1). Psalms 113-118 are called “Hallel”, which is the Hebrew verb meaning “to praise.” These six psalms were recited during various festivals, but especially at Passover.

Matthew 26.30 says, “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Here, Jesus had just celebrated his last Passover with the apostles, and then inaugurated the Lord’s Supper. The “hymn” they sang was the Hallel, including Psalm 118. Think about Jesus’ situation. He’s about to be betrayed by one of his own apostles; it’s the eve of his death; it’s the moment for which he came to earth. He’ll soon ask his Father to remove this cup of “nameless dread”. And on the next day, he’ll die for the sins of the world. 

Yet he could still say, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Friends, if Jesus could find joy as he faced the cross, surely, we can find a bit of joy in whatever circumstances we face. Maybe we’re feeling sluggish at work, or burdened with care, or hurting, or sad, or tired or just plain grumpy. Nonetheless, we have reason for joy.

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

He Will Move Heaven & Earth

Psalm 18.6-17 says:

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. 
Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub and flew;
And He sped upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.
Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

The Bible teaches us that God hears and answers the prayers of his people. But it says relatively little about HOW God answers our prayers. It says little about how he arranges the circumstances and forces of our lives to secure his glory, to accomplish his purposes, and to bless his people. For the most part, the Bible affirms that these things are true, but offers little by way of explanation.

The text quoted above is an interesting exception. Psalm 18 is a prayer of thanksgiving by David. The inscription of the psalm indicates that David composed it after he was freed from King Saul’s menace, and after God had delivered him from his enemies, apparently during the early years of his reign. For the most part, the psalm celebrates a military victory for David by the hand of God. We don’t know any details from the psalm, but the militaristic language and the inscription support this.

Verses 7-15 comprise a powerful affirmation about how God answered David’s prayer. David says that he cried to the LORD for help (v 6), and the LORD answered from heaven. Verses 16-17 indicate that the prayer was answered. Sandwiched between these two prayer references is the mighty rhetoric of v 7-15. 

How did God answer David? In highly metaphoric language, the LORD shook heaven and earth to answer David’s prayers. He shook the earth (v 7); he sent fire and smoke (v 8); he flew down from heaven in clouds and wind (v 9f); he used the darkness (v 11); he thundered from heaven (v 13); he sent bolts of lightening (v 14); he flooded the earth (v 15). 

Many times in biblical history God used the forces of nature to accomplish his purposes. The LORD used a massive flood to destroy the sinful world in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8). He used fire and brimstone to destroy ungodly Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). God manipulated nature to destroy the Egyptian army and secure deliverance for Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15). He caused the sun to stop midday to help Joshua and Israel secure a victory over the Amorite alliance (Joshua 10). He used flash flooding to neutralize the superior chariot forces of the Canaanites when they fought Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5). Whether this is the case with David’s prayer and deliverance, we do not know, but the point remains: God is willing to move heaven and earth to answer prayer for his people.

Psalm 18 is not the only text to suggest this. The book of Revelation presents the prayers of saints as offerings that are perpetually before the throne of God, attended to by heavenly hosts (5.8; 6.9ff; 7.3, 9ff). These are pleas for vindication by those who have been persecuted for their faith. But these prayers, which ascend to the very throne room of God, are answered in dramatic fashion by returning them to earth in the form of lightning judgments. Beginning in 8.3ff, the prayers of the saints are mixed with the very judgments used against their persecutors. 

We may not always be able to see the effects of our prayers. We may not always know if they have been answered. But we can have no doubt about God’s concerns for his people. We can have no doubt that our creator can and does move heaven and earth to answer us. And none can stand against his judgments — rulers, governments, armies, schools, philosophies, markets, sciences — all are impotent against his wrath. 

For today, live with the assurance that God will move heaven and earth for his saints. He will summon his vast forces and resources for you and me.