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The Lord’s Prayer

Since 2016 there has been a movement of prayer covering that period, initiated by our two archbishops, that has become global, under the title “Thy Kingdom Come”. These words are, of course, from the Lord’s Prayer.

Thy Kingdom Come has a website that contains a range of materials and resources, including some powerful, short videos:

https://thykingdomcome.global

Our daily bread, our daily prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is known throughout the world. This short set of reflections has been created with the intention to bring you closer to the words of the prayer and to encourage you to say it every day as we move from Pentecost and its significance for the Church.

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Lent Day 14

Day 14: Thursday, 21 March

Psalm 30: 6-end

6 When I felt secure, I said,

      ‘I shall never be shaken.’

7 Lord, when you favoured me,

      you made my royal mountain stand firm;

but when you hid your face,

      I was dismayed.

 

8 To you, Lord, I called;

      to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 ‘What is gained if I am silenced,

      if I go down to the pit?

Will the dust praise you?

      Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;

      Lord, be my help.’

 

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;

      you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

      Lord my God, I will praise you for ever.

NIV

The writer reflects on how God’s favour can be lost (or at least that God’s favour is his alone to bestow) when we fall away from God. Perhaps he has some past sin in mind as he writes. He appears to be suggesting that God has moved away from this servant, but that is the outcome of this servant’s first turning away from God. While my act of turning away from God will cause sorrow in heavenly places, or my disobedience cause anger to smoulder, when it is God himself who hides his face from me, I will find myself in a far worse place. This realisation is echoed in Jesus’ parable where the son comes at last to his senses and decides to go back to his father: how much better is life as a hired servant in my father’s house than where I am at the moment!

In verse 9 the writer tries to pitch an argument to God as to why He should save him from death. He suggests to God that if He were to consign him to death (the pit) then he wouldn’t be much use to God down there! He is, however, wise enough not to rely on that as a deal-breaker, and pleads for God’s mercy.

The final two verses bring back the positivity of the psalm’s opening. The natural outflow of knowing God’s love and favour is praise, continuous and lasting praise.

How much of this psalm matches your experience of God?

Which would you prefer – a sense of God’s smouldering displeasure, or nothing at all?

Father God, lift me from the depths when I am in despair, but also topple my perch when I think I am successful in myself. Turn my sorrow into dancing that I may praise you as long as I live. Amen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqGlM2gs4bs He Lifted me up from the deep miry clay. He planted my feet on the King’s Highway. And this is the reason why I sing and I shout, My Jesus came down, down, down and lifted me up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V20My43EtIc A more upbeat rendition.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 13

Day 13: Wednesday, 20 March

Psalm 30: 1-5

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

1 I will exalt you, Lord,

      for you lifted me out of the depths

      and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 Lord my God, I called to you for help,

      and you healed me.

3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

      you spared me from going down to the pit.

 

4 Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;

      praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,

      but his favour lasts a lifetime;

weeping may stay for the night,

      but rejoicing comes in the morning.

NIV

While the psalmist exhorts us to sing praise to God, the overwhelming theme is thanksgiving. The opening verses are a deep personal statement from David concerning God’s protection and preservation of him in what appears to be serious life-threatening illness. To this David also adds his thanks that his enemies do not get to gloat over him, thus preserving, too, his status and by extension, that of Israel, among the nations.

Verse 5 is worthy of committing to heart for rapid retrieval when the need arises. God is totally unbalanced in his treatment of us. He is righteous; He is just; He is holy; but above all of these he places his love. He is righteousness crowned with love, justice infused with love, holiness swarming with love. When we incur his anger, it is both slow in coming and quick to dissipate. We do not have to spend days in sackcloth and ashes to prove our repentance because repentance is the key that releases God’s forgiveness.

Has anyone ever said to you, “It’s not fair – you have God on your side”? If not, then perhaps you need to seek his favour, or even wonder why you’re a Christian! God’s favour is ours as a gift of our sonship. It may be one of the least invoked gifts of God. God wants us to prosper in all sorts of ways, beyond the ability of our own intellect or skill of themselves, God-given though they may be, to bring about success. On the see-saw of life, God will upset the balance in my favour. This could result, for instance, in improved relationships, better life chances, superior outcomes, even longer life (and the small matter of eternity at the end of it). In human terms this is not equal, but Christians do not live the life the world lives. God favoured his people Israel in many ways. It can be argued that God’s favour is still working its way through generations of Jews in business, finance, entertainment and other areas.

The second half of verse 5 can be read two ways – in one sense it sounds like a whole new truth about sorrow and joy in aspects of life, and we know that human life gives us plenty of sorrow. We might feel a little aggrieved when the psalmist suggests that sorrow is short-lived, because that isn’t necessarily the case. Sadness can last for a long time. It can also last in a healthy way (recalling the love a deceased parent lavished on you) or an unhealthy way (failing to be reconciled to the death of a loved one). There is little comfort in being told how you should feel. After all, many of the Psalms are expressions and outbursts of the writer’s feelings!

A very common pattern found in Psalms is what I might call, saying the same thing again, but using different words. Expressing the same thought or truth in two different ways can help to broaden its meaning and allow us to latch on to it more securely. If we see the two halves of verse 5 as complimentary views of the same truth then the meaning of the second half is all about the short-lived sorrow we feel when God is angry with us, which lasts but a night, and the continuing joy of God’s favour discovered in the new day.

Have you ever been in a situation like that described in the opening verses? Where did God feature in it?

Do you still feel there are dark clouds of God’s anger or displeasure overhead?

In what aspects of your life do you need to experience God’s favour?

Father God, you are with me in the brightest times, when I should praise you the most, and in the darkest times, when I need you most. Let me know your continuing presence in my life – your protection, your healing, your favour. Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA2h9HBb7-c Sackcloth and ashes.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 12

Day 12: Tuesday, 19 March

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

 

Praise God in his sanctuary;

      praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;

      praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

      praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,

      praise him with the strings and pipe,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,

      praise him with resounding cymbals.

 

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

 

Praise the Lord.

NIV

Bang a gong! Here we may find the answer for those who feel that they cannot sing praises to God, though you shouldn’t assume that bad singers always make good instrumentalists! Even a cymbal has to be clashed at the right time, for there is a difference between a joyful noise in God’s holy place and an unholy racket – the trouble, however, is that the dividing lines between the two are not clearly marked, being partly a matter of taste, and this can lead to some quite strident or entrenched opinions about the type of music used in worship.

The psalm repeats its opening sentence at the end. The last word of the last psalm leaves us in no doubt as to what we should do. The writer calls us to praise God. How God is to be praised is not a question of whether pipe organs and robed choirs are to be pitted against electric bands and worship leaders – such discussion is a complete red herring that only distracts from discovering what true heart-worship of our Lord God is about. If any musician seeks to place their way of worshipping above that of another then the focus has already shifted away from God. If anyone refuses to worship God because of personal preferences then the focus again slips.

Imagine a procession of priestly/levitical musicians in the Temple, filling the lofty spaces or the external courtyards with the raucous and jangling noise of this seemingly odd set of instruments. Trumpets might only be used for repetitive fanfares. Harps (portable, of course) and lyres may pick out melody. Strings and pipe would not be violins and three-manual organ but much simpler instruments. The percussion section would bring pace, punctuation and rhythm to the music as it moves. There would be chanting and declamation, shouts and clashings. It all sounds pretty primitive, but it is what God had ordained, and He had provided his people with highly-skilled ministers in music.

How many times are we called to praise God in this psalm, even if the means is beyond our capability? Twelve. What a glorious closing psalm.

Why should we praise God? There is no answer to that in this psalm – just do it!

However, the psalm does offer another option – dance, with or without timbrels (tambourines). In the Old Testament stories and in Psalms we read of women taking part in celebration in an honourable way. Women were not part of solemn processions with priests, Levites and musicians but there are many examples in the Old Testament of women celebrating in dance. It’s likely that dancing was more the preserve of the younger women than the older, but today we have some awkwardness surrounding women flaunting themselves/expressing worship (you choose) in dance and movement.

Dancing, with timbrels has long been a particular aspect of Salvation Army activity. We have slowly lost the communal connection with dance. Barn dances are a little old-fashioned, and though you may have thoroughly enjoyed Strictly Come Dancing, it may well have been solely as a spectator. Dance is still part of Jewish religious celebration, and perhaps we may need to consider whether movement can find its way back into our worship.

Are we prudish types (male or female) if we see dance as somehow provocative, and would prefer to have none of it at all rather than risk any corruption of others? I may be exaggerating in this analysis, but if in Christ we are given freedom to express our love for God with our hearts, minds, soul and strength (surely that is a physical thing?!), should we not learn to accept it, acknowledge and deal with our own negativity or weakness, and encourage it?

Our final verse, the last verse of the last psalm, commands even my pet cat to praise the Lord.

Have you ever turned your nose up at the way worship is conducted in your congregation/fellowship?

Is it possible for us to revive movement and dance (not necessarily just for women) as part of our celebration of faith? How might it be realised?

(Verse 2) What acts of power can you witness to in your worship?

Father God, I pray for a release of your people into true praise that captures body and heart, soul and strength as well as our voice and raises us to the heavenly places. Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9XIFgDFexU (It’s quite long, but educating. I thought the church was empty! Did you spot Mary Sumner?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyzsISlrB60 Timbrels and dancing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6KlBtIFGbM – Palm Sunday procession as you may never have seen it before.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 11

Day 11: Monday, 18 March

Psalm 103:19-end

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,

      and his kingdom rules over all.

 

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,

      you mighty ones who do his bidding,

      who obey his word.

21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,

      you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the Lord, all his works

      everywhere in his dominion.

 

Praise the Lord, my soul.

NIV

The Psalm ends with an upturn of praise and a call for everyone to praise the God of heaven. Verse 19 is, however, a tough statement to take in. We may all agree that God’s throne is in heaven, but does his kingdom actually reign over all? There have been too many events of history that would disclaim this. Creeping secularism may suggest that the boundaries of the Kingdom are being pushed back.

Simple pre-logic will tell us that if God is God, then God is God. What we see does not change the truth. Should God raise his voice, the earth will melt away (Ps 46:6). At his presence the mountains melt like wax (Ps 97:5). Remember yesterday’s psalm? So, let’s praise God.

The last three verses are a doxology – a word of praise. Angels do it (we don’t need, of course, to tell them to!), all the heavenly armies do it. We should do it, too.

What do you think, looking at the last line of the psalm, soul-praise is?

What is going on in heaven at the moment?

North Korea is reckoned to be the most dangerous place to be a Christian today. Can God’s kingdom really be established there?

Father God, father of compassion and mercy, look upon this child of yours with your love, your grace and your mercy. I give you all that I have placed in our way for you to cast to the very ends of the cosmos. May my heart, my soul and my life be filled with praise, adoration and worship. Amen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUfyowttvmY&index=6&list=RDBc_vQngf_c8 – All Souls Orchestra with the composer.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 10

Day 10: Saturday, 16 March

Psalm 103:7-18

7 He made known his ways to Moses,

      his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 the Lord is compassionate and gracious,

      slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,

      nor will he harbour his anger for ever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

      or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

      so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

      so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

      so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

      he remembers that we are dust.

15 The life of mortals is like grass,

      they flourish like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,

      and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting

      the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

      and his righteousness with their children’s children –

18 with those who keep his covenant

      and remember to obey his precepts.

NIV

Some of our readings will be longer than others. Try not to fall into the entangling web where you attempt to rush through the text in order to finish ‘in time’, thus losing the meaning and drowning in words rather than soaking in them.

Verse 8 is used in worship services as an introduction to confession. A compassionate person not only senses how others are feeling but can also experience the feeling. Compassion places you alongside another person as you feel what they feel. Jesus saw the crowds when he stepped off the boat and had compassion on them. Not only did he feel what they were feeling, mentally and physically, but he also burned with desire to do something about it. That day he healed many people of their various diseases and conditions.

Grace is what God gives to us when we don’t deserve it – it’s a free get out of jail card. Grace comes from God’s love for us, love that, as with grace, we do not deserve. Verses 11 and 12 tell of God’s amazing love and mercy and his readiness to forgive. Commit these two verses to memory.

God has every right to be angry when we disobey, walk away, dishonour him, reject him in favour of what we want to do. God cannot help but be angry when he sees us breaking his commands or carving out our own tablets of stone with text to match our personal agenda. He is God, he is not human and he does not conform to our wishful thinking about his nature. He does not turn his anger off, but he delays the full action so that we might turn back to him before he vents that anger. He said the same to Moses – anger is in his name, but so is mercy.

We may hear the words of the second section above at funeral or commemoration services. The emphasis there may be upon the frailty of human life, but the words actually say something far more powerful about God’s compassion, love and righteousness and our obedience to him. To paraphrase: God knows what we’re like. Humanity is feeble and perishable, but God has compassion and love like a father to his child on those who fear (honour, respect) him, and his love extends to infinite time.

Can my compassion grow to be like that of Jesus?

How easy is it to adopt a cold heart in order to be free of compassionate commitment to those God places before us?

Have you set boundaries to God’s grace?

Father God, I have no idea how far the east lies from the west in the unchartable cosmos, but you have placed my sins that far away from me and you choose not to remember them. Break the coldness in my heart with the warmth of your love and grace, and renew a right spirit in me. Amen.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 9

Day 9: Friday, 15 March

Psalm 103:1-6

Of David.

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;

      all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the Lord, my soul,

      and forget not all his benefits –

3 who forgives all your sins

      and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit

      and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

      so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 

6 The Lord works righteousness

      and justice for all the oppressed.

NIV

David expresses his personal praise of the God who has cared for him. We’ll cover this psalm over three days. The opening verses tell of a God who is personally involved in each of our lives. Even though David is seeing God through the eyes of the Law he is able to reveal to us a God who cares about each one of us. David calls up praise from his inner being, not just through the medium of a physical response action alone, but from deep within.

David knows from bitter experience that God’s retribution for sinful behaviour is tough, but he knows that when he follows God’s laws from a heart of praise and worship then God will bless him. Forgiveness under the Law demands sacrifice before it can be given, yet David still knows the unutterable joy and freedom that forgiveness brings. David doesn’t differentiate – all sins may be forgiven. Likewise, there is healing, which in David’s day was scarce, but David knew that God could heal any disease.

This is not all. Forgiveness sets you back where you were, placing you back on level ground and closing the hole you had fallen into. David goes further in saying that God lifts us even higher because of his love and compassion for us. He responds to our desires with good things. God wants to bless us!

In Jesus we have forgiveness through repentance. It is no less sweet that we have not had to pay for it. Whoever thinks that they can plan to do wrong and then seek forgiveness for that wrongdoing is committing a sin they haven’t yet understood. Repentance is an action, not a state.

Verse 6 is a one-liner. The Lord is a God of righteousness and justice. He is active in promoting and maintaining these among his people. He is not just a judge who decides whether something is right or wrong – God puts things right, he increases justice and righteousness.

Do you also seek restoration when you seek forgiveness?

Do we have a part to play in God’s working out of verse 6? Do you?

Why would God raise us even higher?

Father God, You are ready to reach down into the pit to lift me out when I turn back to you in repentance. There is no situation awful enough that you will not rescue me from. My soul, praise the Lord!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp-UOjstQ1o – the late, great Andrae Crouch.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 8

Day 8: Thursday, 14 March

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

      come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

      It is he who made us, and we are his;

      we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

      and his courts with praise;

      give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;

      his faithfulness continues through all generations.

NIV

This psalm is an explosion of praise. In just a few lines it covers themes of joy, worship, ownership, thanksgiving, praise, and God’s everlasting goodness. It would have been used in processional worship, sung as the procession moved into the courts of the Temple itself.

It, too, is also used in morning worship. The traditional words ‘O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands’ may miss the emphasis slightly. We are not called to be joyful but to shout out for joy, to be so agitated by joy that the earth has to hear it.

The whole earth is called to rejoice –but following verses claim the special covenant relationship that God has with his people, Israel. Verse 3 reveals God’s ownership of this covenant nation, a truth that is repeated in the one verse.

The sight of a procession of priests and musicians moving into the Temple courts must have been something to behold. The music would have been loud, the singing strong. A CofE procession might not quite match the colour, the dynamism, the noise and the dancing (very likely) of the procession to the Temple. The tone of the psalm would suggest that dignified solemnity did not play a major part in the proceedings.

We, too, are called to come into our places of worship with joy and proclamation. It might be the done thing for people who have entered into a church to sit down and say a quiet prayer. That tradition, and I am not criticising it, does not appear to have its origins in Psalm 100, which stands into eternity as a model for our corporate, rather than personal, worship.

The last verse expresses God’s eternal goodness, love and faithfulness. These qualities come as part of the special covenant relationship He has with his people. Goodness, love and faithfulness are attributes of a God who seeks to give of himself for his people’s benefit. Today we can be recipients of God’s great love in his gift of Jesus Christ to all who receive him.

What can we learn from Nehemiah 12 about processions?

How can your church foster a sense of joy as you enter your place of worship or as the act of worship begins?

How has God shown his goodness, love and faithfulness to you? Who have you shared this with?

Father God, through the Word I am your creation, and I am yours. Teach me how to live under your covering. Show me how You desire a joyful, glad, praising and thankful people coming together to worship you for your everlasting love. Amen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjgdKWbD0xE A worshipful rendition

https://gloria.tv/video/aBCSdCKoZsn84bLsLm77EKF2W You can do it, too!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9zpzch8LiE A gentle gospel rendition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZqPxlj5EPM The Old Hundredth

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul

Lent Day 7

Day 7: Wednesday, 13 March

Psalm 95

1 Come, let us cry out with joy to Yahweh, acclaim the rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, acclaim him with music.

3 For Yahweh is a great God, a king greater than all the gods.

4 In his power are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are his;

5 the sea belongs to him, for he made it, and the dry land, moulded by his hands.

6 Come, let us bow low and do reverence; kneel before Yahweh who made us!

7 For he is our God, and we the people of his sheepfold, the flock of his hand. If only you would listen to him today!

8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as at the time of Massah in the desert,

9 when your ancestors challenged me, put me to the test, and saw what I could do!

10 For forty years that generation sickened me, and I said, 'Always fickle hearts; they cannot grasp my ways.'

11 Then in my anger I swore they would never enter my place of rest.

NJB

This psalm has formed part of morning worship services for centuries. As a choirboy I never sang past verse 7, as the remainder of the psalm was marked as optional. You can see why. Why did the writer continue into all that Meribah stuff? And as for the sting in the last verse…! Many psalms have a change of direction, more often in a positive direction rather than what is the case in this psalm.

This psalm would have been sung as part of a festival celebration. The musicians were from a particular tribe of Israel and their job was to play instruments or sing, often in procession.

The opening verses command us to cry out with joy. Have you been encouraged by the leader of a service to sing up, or to look more joyful? Have you ever felt like arguing or shouting back something less than complimentary to the leader or even to God? Let’s get something straight, then.

Joy is a state that transcends grumpiness, self-pity, tiredness, off-day, bad hair day and a lot of other feelings and attitudes. Joy is prescribed.  Joy is a response to the goodness of God – it is not an emotion, neither is it mechanical. God has the right to command a response from us. Even they that sow in tears shall reap in joy (Psalm 126); when the night is filled with tears of sorrow, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30) – the night may be dark, and may last for more than just a few hours. However, joy is the final outcome, and joy will be the state of eternal life. Joy is a response of obedience – so, cry out, and acclaim the rock of our salvation.

It is helpful, especially when the Bible says one thing and you think another, to read the words again, and to soak in them. Meditate upon the words – meditation ought always to have words upon which to reflect. Give the words, a verse or a passage, time to sink deeper into you. Accompany this by prayer, asking God by his Holy Spirit to make the words clearer in order that you may understand them better and trust more fully in them.

Music is commanded, too, and so it should be. God loves a joyful noise, but he may love joyful music and singing even more!

Why should we make a noise? Because He is the creator and sustainer of all. Why should we bow the knee to Him? Because He is our God. There is no other.

From the middle of verse 7 (the psalm writer did not number the verses) there is a turn. We are reminded of some of the misdeeds of God’s people in the past, of our spiritual ancestors in the desert. The writer pleads with us not to be like them, for God dealt with their hardness of heart and disobedience by denying them sight of the Promised Land.

In response to v2, how do you come into your church or fellowship building?

Have we lost the obedience of kneeling?

Father God, your Word created everything. Cause me by your Holy Spirit to understand and fill me with joy that I may respond as you desire. Amen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kUfMaYhN_U Performed by the Sons of Korah

Taken from The New Jerusalem Bible, published and copyright 1985 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Les Editions du Cerf, and used by permission of the publishers. 

Paul

Lent Day 6

Day 6: Tuesday, 12 March

Psalm 47

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah

Applause, everyone. Bravo, bravissimo!

      Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!

God Most High is stunning,

      astride land and ocean.

He crushes hostile people,

      puts nations at our feet.

He set us at the head of the line,

      prize-winning Jacob, his favourite.

Loud cheers as God climbs the mountain,

      a ram’s horn blast at the summit.

Sing songs to God, sing out!

      Sing to our King, sing praise!

He’s Lord over earth,

      so sing your best songs to God.

God is Lord of godless nations—

      sovereign, he’s King of the mountain.

Princes from all over are gathered,

      people of Abraham’s God.

The powers of earth are God’s—

      he soars over all.

MSG

The sons of Korah feature as the writers of a number of psalms. Korah, a grandson of Levi, met his end very swiftly (see Numbers 16). This translation brings out the immediacy of the praise and worship of God. The words of themselves are not meant to be beautiful or transcendent. This psalm is a hymn of praise, of triumph, of the greatness of God, pointing to the Author, not the scribe.

The perhaps more familiar words of the opening, ‘O clap your hands together, all you/ye people’ do seem a trifle tame. Clap hands?! Where in our orders of service is there a space for applause of God?! Could it be that in our Christian experience and subsequent worship we may have lost sight of the reason why God should be applauded? For the Israelites, the story of their escape from Egypt and their victories under God in gaining the land where they now lived was still fresh and strong in their folk memory. God has indeed done a marvellous thing. Now, what do we in the twenty-first century recall of the past or present greatness of God? What has God done for us?

We have no physical ground to conquer, but the forces of secularisation are uniting to wipe out faith in our land and continent. Are we sitting by, watching it happen, or even hiding in our churches, hoping not to have to address it?

The call to sing to God comes many times in this psalm. I am aware that singing is not universally taken up by people during worship, sometimes because of their own low perceptions of their ability to sing, a fear of singing out, or simply because the music never seems to fit one’s vocal range, though I am always impressed by the vocal gymnastics of the octave-shifters who shift the high notes down a gear and the low ones up! It’s a bit like driving an automatic.

Negative attitudes regarding the type or selection of music can leave some people refusing to worship God out of personal principle. I’ve been there – it’s sinful because I put my personal sensitivities or my opinion of what pleases God before obedient worship of God. We are called to worship. Refusal to worship is a refusal to acknowledge who God is.

I conducted a funeral of a dear friend a little while ago. The church was full. There was a small music group accompanying the hymns. The bass guitar player’s performance was dire – he took a couple of verses to find the correct key, and he was LOUD. He stood just two yards from where I was standing. My initial reaction was that he was turning our worship into a cacophony. This was actually true. How could God be worshiped here? I paused for a moment or two and wondered whether the sound of the finest musicians would be any more pleasing to God than that which the rest of us have to give. I let go of my sensitivities in the racket and gave in to God. I sang as if I was surrounded by angels. I believe that the high praise of God was offered, with angels in attendance, at that funeral. I later found out that this man was a faithful musician known to the family over the years who was now suffering from a form of dementia.

Do you sing your best songs to God?

Can God be worshipped with all that modern stuff/all those old tunes (select the one that matches your viewpoint)?

Is it possible that God is Lord of godless nations today?

Father God, when I come to worship you, I pray that it is in obedience to your call and not according to my preferences. Amen.

All Scripture quotations are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Paul

Lent Day 5

Day 5: Monday, 11 March

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;

      I have all that I need.

2 He lets me rest in green meadows;

      he leads me beside peaceful streams.

3    He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

      bringing honour to his name.

4 Even when I walk

      through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

      for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff

      protect and comfort me.

5 You prepare a feast for me

      in the presence of my enemies.

You honour me by anointing my head with oil.

      My cup overflows with blessings.

6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me

      all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord

      forever.

NLT

This is one of the most well-known psalms. Its familiarity is increased through numerous hymns based on its words, though some of them employ a dash of poetic licence. David knows all about sheep and shepherds. Jesus took upon himself a shepherd title. Just before his arrest he quoted Zechariah 13:7: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.

The psalm’s shepherd theme covers provision, refreshing and protection for the person who follows, and extends beyond the sheep analogy as it continues. From verse 5 David moves into a personal response to God for his protection. The extravagance of Father God in preparing the very best for us as our enemies watch and gawp is something that David had experienced in his life as a king and a soldier.

As you recite these psalms, and I urge you to speak them out aloud, you will start to feel the poetic nature they contain. I do not wish to give you a clinical analysis of the structure of psalms as this is something you can find out for yourself when your love of this book causes you to research further. Suffice it to say that many psalms pair up lines to expand a thought by telling it again in a new way. Can you see this happening in this psalm?

Are you able to join David in claiming verse 1 as a truth in your life?

https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/528. How has the writer of this hymn developed the theme?

Father God, in Jesus I have a Good Shepherd, who knows me and who will not let me go. Thank you that you should care for me in this way. Amen.

There are many versions of Psalm 23 – just click:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN4tPkX0MG0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo3HgtT_OiE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CglQuMr0ifk

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Paul