Tuesday, May 31, 2011

1 Samuel 3:10-21

10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

11 And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”

15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”

Samuel answered, “Here I am.”

17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. 21 The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

Questions to consider:

  • Why is the fact that God is speaking to Samuel here especially important? [hint: look back at verse one of this chapter]
  • Would you have been afraid if you were in Samuel's position?
  • Why is God holding Eli responsible for the sins of his sons?
  • Why do you think Samuel was afraid to tell Eli about the vision?
  • What do you think about Eli's response? If the vision had been about you, would you have been able to respond gracefully?
  • What does it mean that the Lord let none of Samuel's words "fall to to the ground"?

Possibilities for prayer:

As I think about how God came and stood before Samuel in the middle of the night and told him these things about Eli and Eli's family, I can't help but wonder how I would have responded. Would I have been fearful? Would I have been humbled? Confused? Elated that God had chosen ME to speak to in a time when God wasn't really speaking?

Even though Samuel was nervous about sharing all that God had told him with Eli, he does so anyway, which to me is a great indication of courage. Being courageous doesn't have to mean not ever being afraid, but instead maybe being afraid and doing the right thing anyway. Let's ask that God would be growing in us this ability to overcome fear with courage that comes from him, giving us the ability to do what's right, even if it's not the most popular or comfortable thing to do.

Monday, May 30, 2011

1 Samuel 3:1-9

1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

8 A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Questions to consider:

  • Why do you think "there were not many visions" in Samuel's day?
  • Would you, like Samuel, have assumed that it was Eli calling you?
  • Why is this an especially natural thing for Samuel to think, given the information we were offered in verse 1?
  • What do you think it means for the word of the Lord to have been revealed to Samuel?
  • Do you feel that the word of the Lord has been revealed to you?
  • How do you respond when God calls out to you?

Possibilities for prayer:

I find it interesting that the author of this book describes Samuel as "not yet know[ing] the Lord" because the Word of the Lord had not been revealed to him. We don't really know if Eli had ever heard God's voice at this point either, but he is still able to direct Samuel in the proper way to respond to God. This led me to think about the way in which we are able to serve as mentors for those around us.

It's true that none of us has ALL of the necessary knowledge, wisdom, experience, etc to have the answers to every question that we might be asked. But, we have a great resource in God, who wants to use us to minister to and mentor others. Today, take some time to ask that God might use you to minister to and mentor others around you, as he used Eli to get Samuel started on the road to diligently serving God throughout his life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

1 Samuel 2:27-36

27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to the family of your ancestor when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’

30 “Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that the members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of the members of your family, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his family line, and he will minister before my anointed one always. 36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”

Questions to consider:

  • How would you respond to this announcement if you were Eli?
  • Were you surprised that God accused Eli of honoring his sons more than God? What do you think of that statement?
  • What has God promised to do to Eli's family line? Why is this punishment being given?
  • Who do you think the "faithful priest" that God mentions will be?

Possibilities for prayer:

Wow. Those were some pretty harsh words conveyed to Eli. They would have been difficult for me to take. We learned yesterday that Eli's sons were not very godly men, God's proclamation here still feels a little bit hard to swallow.

There is still the hint of redemption here, however. Even though things don't look so great for Eli's family, there is the promise of something new, in the form of the "faithful priest" that God will raise up. This little indication of redemption gives me hope, and helps me see the compassionate and loving God with whom I am familiar from my readings of the Old Testament. Let's take some time in prayer today to thank God for his power to redeem things, and people, that often appear quite broken.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

1 Samuel 2:12-26

12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17 This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD’s sight, for they were treating the LORD’s offering with contempt.

18 But Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD.” Then they would go home. 21 And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.

22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the LORD’s people is not good. 25 If anyone sins against another human being, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the LORD, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death.

26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people.

Questions to consider:

  • Were you surprised to find out that Eli had sons?
  • What do you think "treating the Lord's offering with contempt" means?
  • What do you think about the statement "it was the Lord's will to put them to death"? Does this fit with your understanding of who God is? Why or why not?

Possibilities for prayer:

If anyone sins against another human being, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the LORD, who will intercede for them?

I like this statement that Eli makes to his sons. I think that if I had been one of them, it would have grabbed my attention. I also like the fact that in many ways, this statement doesn't apply to us. As we are living in a world that is post-Jesus, we have him to intercede on our behalves in all things. Isn't that encouraging?! Today, take some time in prayer thank Jesus for his sacrifice and for the fact that he intercedes on our behalves.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1 Samuel 2:1-11

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 “There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 “Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 “The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world.
9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
10 those who oppose the LORD will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the LORD under Eli the priest.

Questions to consider:

  • What do you think about Hannah's prayer?
  • Why do you think she offered this prayer?
  • What characteristics of God does Hannah declare in this prayer?
  • Does Hannah believe that it is strength that allows one to be victorious?

Possibilities for prayer:

In reading through this prayer that Hannah offers (which is, in a lot of ways, a declaration of God's goodness), she sounds like a woman who has been given many, many children when she was once barren...as opposed to a woman who has just dropped off her one and only child at a temple to live without her for the rest of his days. This again reflects the courage that is so clearly a part of Hannah's life! Today, as you pray and think through the things in your life that seem particularly challenging, think about the strength and courage that Hannah exhibited, as she praised God for His goodness and strength, and ask that God would place some of that same strength and courage within you as you face your own obstacles or decisions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

1 Samuel 1:21-28

21 When Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.”

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. 27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you think you could have kept your promise to God? Would you have been able to give up your ONLY child?
  • What do you think of Elkanah's response?
  • What do you think Eli thinks about Hannah's presentation of her son? Does it seem strange to you that so young a child should be sent to live at a temple?
  • Who does Hannah acknowledge as the reason she has this child? Is that acknowledgment important?
  • What lesson(s) do you learn from Hannah, a woman who prayed for a child, was granted that child, and then gave that child away to be wholly a servant of the Lord?

Possibilities for prayer:

Again we see in Hannah so much courage! Can you imagine taking your toddler aged child, the child that you wept passionately to God in order to even conceive, and dropping him off to live forever in a temple, knowing that he would never be fully your son again? I don't have any children of my own, but I still can't imagine doing that.

Clearly, the "easier" and less courageous option for Hannah was to "forget" about the promise that she made to God when she asked for a child...or to alter the terms of the agreement so that Samuel could remain with her. And yet, she does not do this. She does not take the easy way out. She presents a sacrifice to God in the form of a bull AND she gives her little boy over to the care of an aging priest. Such courage! Such boldness. Today, ask that God would give you the type of courage that we see in Hannah here, in choosing not to take the easy way out. If you're facing some difficult decision(s) in your life right now, ask that God would give you the courage to face them boldly and not simply to look for the easiest solution.

Monday, May 23, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-20

1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”

Questions to consider:

  • "But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her." Do you think that Elkanah didn't love his other wife?
  • How would you feel if you were in Hannah's position, before God granted her a child?
  • How do you feel about Elkanah's response to Hannah's sadness?
  • Do you think it made sense that Eli thought Hannah was drunk when she was praying?
  • What do you make of the phrase "and the Lord remembered [Hannah]"?
Possibilities for prayer:

As we go through this sermon series on courage, we want to look at stories of courage throughout the Bible. Hannah's story strikes me as an example of courage. She was bold enough to go to the temple and to cry out in anguish to God about her desire to have a child. She was so passionately crying out to God that the priest thought she was drunk! Hannah was not content to be childless, even though her husband loved her very much--despite her inability to have a child. And God responded to her cries, to her passion, to her bold prayer and promise in the temple.

I don't think this story tells us that we can always get what we want as long as we ask ardently enough, but it is a story about the way that God hears our prayers and responds, so we should boldly bring them before our God! Today, try just that: bring your heart's desire before God in courage, and in faith, and see what happens.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Psalm 144

1 Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
2 He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

3 LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
4 They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.

5 Part your heavens, LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
6 Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
7 Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
8 whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

9 I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword 11 deliver me;
rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
14 our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.

Questions to consider:
  • How do you relate the ideas of God as loving and simultaneously a "fortress." Do those two ideas make sense together for you?
  • What does David think about humanity?
  • Do you think David is literally asking God to come down from heaven? Why or why not?
  • When will all the good things in verses 12-14 occur according to this psalm?
  • What is the "this" in verse 15?
Possibilities for prayer:

I particularly like verse 3 in this psalm, and the way in which David's sense of disbelief about God's very acknowledgement of and care for humanity comes after his description of God as a fortress, shield and stronghold. When we take a moment to reflect on who and what God is and is capable of, it can get a little overwhelming to think about the fact that God not only created us, or acknowledges us, but that God LOVES us. The declarations that David makes about our God being a place of refuge and safety, and about being loving are true statements. And God offers that refuge and love to us, to all of us, regardless of whether we are worthy of it.

So take a moment to reflect on that. Think about the boundless goodness and love of God, and acknowledge that that love is directed at YOU; not just at a nebulous person that could potentially love, but at you as an individual person that God designed and is pleased with and, above all, loves. Let your time of prayer today be soaked in that love that God has for you, and see if that love doesn't start to change you, even if only in small ways, as you embrace it and claim it in your life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Psalm 143

1 LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

Questions to consider:

  • What characteristics of God might lead him to come to the aid of the author?
  • What do you think it means for the author's "spirit to grow faint within [him]"?
  • What does it mean to you to "thirst" for God?
Possibilities for prayer:

This past Sunday at ECV, we sang the song "We Are Hungry." One of the lines of the song says "we are thirsty for more of you." It's kind of cool to think that an idea or expression that was used thousands of years ago in prayer, praise, and worship is still used today in our contemporary worship songs. Take some time to think about what it means to be thirsty for more of God in your life. Does that statement (however you define it) feel true in your life? Today, make that your prayer. Ask God for more of his presence in your life and declare your "thirst" for God.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Psalm 142

1 I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.

3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.

5 I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.

Questions to consider:

  • Why is the author "crying aloud to the Lord."
  • Why do you think that it is important that the Lord is David's refuge?
  • Why is David in desperate need?
  • What do you think is David's prison?
  • How would you describe the tone of this psalm?
Possibilities for prayer:

Sometimes it feels easy to resonate with the distress that is conveyed in this psalm. Is God listening? Will God respond? Why is life so hard? But David declares that God is his refuge, and we can do the same thing. When we find ourselves in situations that feel insurmountable, one step toward victory is declaring that God will save us. Even when that truth feels distant, or we're having trouble believing it, stating it can be the first step toward believing it. If you find yourself in such a situation right now, declare in prayer that God is your refuge. It might take some time to truly believe it, but persevere! And watch God work on your behalf.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Psalm 141

1 I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
2 May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

3 Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
do not let me eat of their delicacies.

5 Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

6 Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
7 They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

8 But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD;
in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
9 Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
from the snares they have laid for me.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by in safety.

Questions to consider:

  • Why does the author want a "guard" over his mouth?
  • Why do you think the author considers it a "kindness" if a righteous man strikes him?
  • Where is the author going to look for refuge and safety?
  • From what does he seek safety?
Possibilities for prayer:

I like the way that David asks God to listen to him. There is not an assumption on his part that God is already listening, but a humble request that God might turn his ear toward David. Today as you pray, take a moment to ask God to listen to your prayers, to receive the prayers that you offer. At the end of the prayer, thank God for listening, in confidence that he has.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Psalm 140

1 Rescue me, LORD, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
2 who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.

4 Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
5 The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path.

6 I say to the LORD, “You are my God.”
Hear, LORD, my cry for mercy.
7 Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
8 Do not grant the wicked their desires, LORD;
do not let their plans succeed.

9 Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
10 May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
11 May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.

12 I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
13 Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence.

Questions to consider:

  • From whom does the author want to be rescued?
  • For what is the author crying out?
  • For whom does the author say the Lord secures justice?
  • Why do you think the righteous will praise the name of God?
  • How do you feel about the way that the author asks for retribution for his foes? Do you ever feel like you want to pray in that way too?

Possibilities for prayer:

In reading through this passage, I was struck by the way in which the author pretty blatantly seeks bad things for those who have caused him harm. When I've found myself particularly frustrated, hurt, or wounded, I have definitely thought about praying that they would be punished for the way in which I was treated, but almost immediately felt convicted for that attitude. Today in prayer, why don't we try to do something like the opposite of what David does here--let's pray for those who have harmed us in a way that seeks God's best for them. Instead of asking that "burning coals" be heaped upon their heads, ask that they would encounter God's grace.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Questions to consider:

  • What things about you is it hard to believe that God knows?
  • How does being known by God in this rather profound way make you feel?
  • How far does God's knowledge of you go? Can you escape God?
  • Do you feel, as the psalmist did, that Gods thoughts are precious? Do you make an effort to know them? How?
Possibilities for prayer:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Do you agree with this request that the psalmist has made of God? David seems to be seeking God's knowledge of him, as well as God's correction if it is required. Sometimes correction can be awkward and uncomfortable...I know that I am rarely the best at seeking it. But hopefully we've seen over the course of this week the abundance of love that God has for us, and that can give us confidence in approaching God for correction, however awkward or uncomfortable it might seem. Today, let's pray this prayer, that God would deeply search and deeply know us, and that we would open ourselves up to receiving correction from God, in order to be led "in the way everlasting"-- the way that leads us straight to God.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Psalm 138

1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.

4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.

6 Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly,
but he takes notice of the proud from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The LORD will vindicate me;
your love, LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

Questions to consider:

  • To what "gods" do you think the psalmist refers?
  • What solemn decree do you think the psalmist is talking about?
  • What does it mean for the Lord to stretch out his hand against the anger of the writer's foes?
  • Why do you think it is important to the psalmist that the Lord vindicates him?
  • How (or does it?) does this psalm respond to the one before it?
Possibilities for prayer:

Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly,
but he takes notice of the proud from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.

These verses seem particularly profound to me. We've established over the course of this week the ways in which God is great, powerful, and exalted. But even given those characteristics, God is not too big to notice even the little things that are going on in our lives. It's always amazed me the way that God responds to my prayers, even though, in the grand scheme of the epic universe, my concerns are generally pretty minor. The psalmist seems to recognize this as well. God is bigger than we are--SO much bigger--and yet he deigns to acknowledge us. Even, to love us. Take a moment to just think about that. Then, offer up a great big prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving to our great big, wonderful God whose love endures forever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Psalm 137

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

7 Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy are those who repay you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy are those who seize your infants
and dash them against the rocks.

Questions to consider:

  • How would you describe the tone of this psalm?
  • Why is the psalmist (and his people) sad?
  • What is the psalmist afraid of forgetting?
  • Why do you think the psalmist asks God to remember what the Edomites did?
  • How can you contrast this psalm to the one from yesterday?
Possibilities for prayer:
WHOA. This psalm was a bit of a downer! If Psalm 136 was an example of exultation and proclamation of God's enduring love, this Psalm feels more like an admission of hopelessness. It's always been interesting to me how the Psalms can do this--move so quickly from one emotion to nearly its antithesis. But if you think about humanity, we can be rather fickle in that way, especially when it comes to God. We're ready to thank God in the midst of the good times, but as soon as things become difficult, we wonder where God is and if God will ever bring us out of our sorrow. How quickly we forget!

As we pray today, let's confess or fickle hearts and the way in which we can so easily become caught up in the burden of day to day struggles. Let's ask God to transform our hearts to be more steadfast in the knowledge of his enduring love (much like Psalm 136 says!).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders, 

His love endures forever. 

5 who by his understanding made the heavens, 

His love endures forever. 

6 who spread out the earth upon the waters, 

His love endures forever. 

7 who made the great lights— 

His love endures forever. 

8 the sun to govern the day, 

His love endures forever. 

9 the moon and stars to govern the night; 

His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt 

His love endures forever. 

11 and brought Israel out from among them 

His love endures forever. 

12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; 

His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder 

His love endures forever.

14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, 

His love endures forever.

15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; 

His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness; 

His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings, 

His love endures forever. 

18 and killed mighty kings— 

His love endures forever. 

19 Sihon king of the Amorites 

His love endures forever. 

20 and Og king of Bashan— 

His love endures forever. 

21 and gave their land as an inheritance, 

His love endures forever. 

22 an inheritance to his servant Israel. 

His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate 

His love endures forever. 

24 and freed us from our enemies. 

His love endures forever. 

25 He gives food to every creature. 

His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven. 

His love endures forever.

Questions to consider:
  • An easy one: why does the psalmist call us to give thanks to God?
  • What do you take verse 5 to mean?
  • Do you disagree with or have trouble with any part of this psalm? If so, why?
Possibilities for prayer:

I like this psalm a lot because it reminds me of an old Chris Tomlin song (I've been singing it to myself as I've been writing this day's guide) that I used to listen to fairly often. To be honest, I didn't realize that the song was basically this psalm set to music, but now that I know it, I kind of think the song's even cooler. As a prayer response today, pick out your favorite 5 lines from this psalm that declare something great about God and make up your own song for them. You don't have to sing it out loud, and no one is going to judge you, but as you reflect on those statements of God, see if you aren't at least a little bit inspired to come up with a song yourself!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Psalm 135

1 Praise the LORD.

Praise the name of the LORD;
praise him, you servants of the LORD,
2 you who minister in the house of the LORD,
in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own,
Israel to be his treasured possession.

5 I know that the LORD is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
6 The LORD does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

8 He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
the firstborn of people and animals.
9 He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
against Pharaoh and all his servants.
10 He struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings—
11 Sihon king of the Amorites,
Og king of Bashan,
and all the kings of Canaan—
12 and he gave their land as an inheritance,
an inheritance to his people Israel.

13 Your name, LORD, endures forever,
your renown, LORD, through all generations.
14 For the LORD will vindicate his people
and relent concerning his servants.

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
16 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
17 They have ears, but cannot hear,
nor is there breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.

19 House of Israel, praise the LORD;
house of Aaron, praise the LORD;
20 house of Levi, praise the LORD;
you who fear him, praise the LORD.
21 Praise be to the LORD from Zion,
to him who dwells in Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD.

Questions to consider:

  • For you, which is the most profound image that the psalmist offers?
  • How do you think the psalmist knows that "the Lord is great"?
  • Who does the psalmist call upon to praise the Lord?
  • Does this psalm reflect your feelings toward God? Why or why not?
Possibilities for prayer:

As I read through this psalm, one of the things that was most striking to me was the comparison between our God and the "idols of the nations." They were portrayed as completely ineffective, while God "does whatever pleases him" and is capable of making "clouds rise from the ends of the earth," among many other things. The psalmist uses some rather lovely imagery in describing what God can do, has done, and will do; imagery that likely leaves one feeling rather inspired and awed by the greatness of the God we serve. That greatness seems magnified many fold in comparison to the utter lack of ability the other idols have. Today, let's take some time to simply praise our God, the God who sends lightning and makes wind, who is capable of both creating and ending life, and who will vindicate his people.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Psalm 130

1Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

3If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

5I wait for the LORD,my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

7O Israel hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Questions to consider:

  • What depths do you think the author is talking about here?
  • What request does the author make?
  • What qualities of God does the author praise?
Possibilities for prayer:

It's pretty convicting to think about God keeping a tally sheet of the things that we've done in our lives...I don't know about you, but it's not always clear to me whether the good things would outweigh the bad. But praise the Lord for forgiveness (and that's definitely what the author here is doing!) because that means that this treacherous tally sheet gets thrown at the window. Today, take some time to ask for forgiveness for the things that you haven't yet confessed, and then bask in the grace and forgiveness that God offers us. You might want to offer up a prayer of thanks and gratitude for that...and maybe even sing a song or two!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Psalm 129

1"Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth"—
let Israel now say—
2"Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
3The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows."
4The LORD is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
6Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
7with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8nor do those who pass by say,
"The blessing of the LORD be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the LORD!"

Questions to consider:
  • What is the writer of this psalm seeking?
  • Who is responsible for victory over one's enemies?
  • Who do you think this psalm is addressed to?
Possibilities for prayer:

The writer of this psalm seems to me to be clearly upset about the way in which he has been oppressed. However, in the midst of frustration and anger, the writer is able to declare God's victory over those people, and acknowledge the way in which God did not allow them to prevail. This is a common theme in the psalms--anger, frustration, sorrow that are turned into joy, confidence, and victory. Let's make it a common theme in our lives as well...today, let's ask God that whenever we encounter adversity in our lives, we would be able to confidently claim God's ultimate triumph.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Psalm 128

1 Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
2You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

3Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.

5The LORD bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
6May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!

Questions to consider:

  • To you, what does it mean to fear the Lord
  • What are some examples of ways in which God will bless his people?
  • What prosperity do you hope to see for "all the days of your life"?
Possibilities for prayer:

Take some time to think about what the fear of the Lord looks like in your life. Ask God to speak to you about how you can be more reverent in your life. Thank God for the ways that you have been blessed already, and ask that God would reveal to you the ways in which he is continually blessing you, even now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Psalm 127

1Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

3Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
5Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Questions to consider:

  • What does this passage teach you about the power of God?
  • What does this passage suggest about family?
  • What does this passage suggest about rest?
Possibilities for prayer:

It's a pretty intense statement to suggest that without God, labor is worthless and protection is not real. Let's take some time to evaluate the way in which we trust God with our lives...with our work, with our safety, etc. Ask that God would increase the faith that you have in God's power, and give you the humility to give credit where credit is due (God!).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Psalm 126

1When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
3The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.

4Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Questions to consider:
  • What do you think it means to be "like those who dream"?
  • How have you seen the truth of verse 3 in your own life?
  • Do verses 5 and 6 give you hope?
  • How have you seen the promises in this passage fulfilled in your life?
Possibilities for prayer:

Maybe it was really easy for some of you to think of ways that God has fulfilled the promises in this psalm, the way that God is able to transform pain and sorrow into laughter and joy. But maybe for others it was more difficult in this moment to see that possibility of transformation clearly. Whatever your current situation or frame of mind, take a moment to pray that God would give you eyes to see the transformational power that God has to take hardship and strife and turn it into something beautiful for God's glory. Ask that God would give you the ability to see beyond the hard stuff right in front of you, and to praise God in the midst of anything...calm or storm!