Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Psalms 8 speaks of our importance. It is easy to get swept up in the process of life. It is easy to think we no longer matter. It is easy to feel, because of age or illness, life passes us by. It is easy to feel passed over as useless. Psalms 8 tells us the high value God places upon everyone, young or old.
The question, “What is man?” can only be understood by his relationship with God. The Psalm first tells us of the bigness of God (vs. 1-2). When we look up in the sky and see the stars, we feel so small. Am I significant at all? Yet, even a nursing baby shows God’s majesty. Even God’s enemies are silenced when we consider His wonders. The stars and babies both remind us that God loves His creation.
So, what is man? Is man significant or not? Man is made a little lower than the angels. While that says, in comparison to God man is little, it also says that in creation man is significant. “Made a little lower than the angels” is not a statement of how low man is but how high he is. He is created by God, not a by-product of evolution and chance. He is made in the image of God, created for God’s glory, created to have dominion over creation.
Sadly, man lost his exalted privilege. Instead of being a victor and having dominion over creation, he became a victim of creation. Sin robbed him of his full potential. Yet, God still cares.
This Psalm is also used of Jesus. Jesus came to provide a remedy for man. In Christ, we can become what we lost. We were made by God to be Kings.
Psalms 8 tells us we have significance. We have great value. We were created high. Even though we lost that exalted position it can be restored through Christ. God’s dream is still available for man.
- Look up at the stars and marvel at God’s mighty power. Just look and see.
- Stop thinking of yourself as meaningless and insignificant. God made you! The way we see ourselves is the way we will see others.
I Love Your Word!
On Tuesdays we are going to be looking at one of the themes from the longest Psalm, Psalm 119. This psalm tends to scare readers off because of its length and its depth, but do not be discouraged. Follow along and we will discover some of its secrets together!
The first theme is love of Law. Psalm 119 is basically a love poem to the law (vv. 47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 159, 163, 167 to name a few). This theme might sound strange at first, but the psalmist finds the law so outrageously loveable because it belongs to God. Since the law is distinctly God’s law, and comes right from his mouth, it is better than anything else, including heaps of treasure (v. 72, 127) and delicious honey (v. 103).
The notion of “law,” however, goes much further than just the Ten Commandments. “The law” is an expansive idea for the writer of Psalm 119. It is nearly impossible to read even a single verse of this psalm without bumping into it. That’s because the idea of “the law” is described by lots of different words in Psalm 119, including “commandments,” “precepts,” “ways,” “testimonies,” “ordinances,” “judgments,” “statutes,” and—most popular of them all—“words.” Only seven verses in this psalm do not mention this “law” idea in some way.
The psalmist is writing about his incredible love for anything God says. Whether actual commandments, or blessings, or prophecies, or decisions, or stories—whatever God says to his people, it’s utterly loveable. Every scrap of what God reveals in speech is priceless, including his rules. And words beget words, as God’s communication throws the psalmist into extended poetic rhapsody. As it should for us! These are the Words of the creator of all existence and He recorded this for you and I to read so that we may be able to come to an understanding of who He is and what He expects for His people.
The psalm opens with the call: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” We have a song in our hymnals entitled, “The New Song.” What does it mean to sing a new song?
In one sense, the “New Song” is referred to throughout Scripture, as a response of praise from God’s people, worshipping God for His salvation (see Psalm 33:3, 40:3; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3).
Notice what God is being praised for here –
- His Salvation (v. 2)
- His wonderful deeds (v. 3)
- Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised (v. 4)
- He is the creator (v. 5)
- He is clothed and surrounded with splendor, majesty, strength and beauty (v. 6)
- He is our righteous judge (v. 10)
- He is coming to judge the world (v. 13)
It is praising God for who He is, and what He has done – specifically to the saving/redeeming of His people.
But here’s another thought to consider. One author wrote, “Fresh mercies demand fresh expressions of thanksgiving.” We know about that idea of fresh – alive, healthy, vibrant. When something grows stale we feel the need to “liven” it up. We use words like “renew” or “reinvigorate” to describe bringing a breath of life into something that has lost it’s fervor.
This can happen. Songs of praise that are sung out of duty rather devotion, out of tradition rather than thanksgiving, can turn the heartfelt vibrant praise into an empty and meaningless dirge. Has worship become stale to you? Do you notice that your “heart isn’t in it?” Do you need to bring some life to the song you are singing to God?
The answer is not in a literal new song or hymn. It’s not in changing the aesthetics of the building (dim the lights, mood music, etc.). Read through this Psalm again. Look at v. 2 – proclaim the tidings of His salvation – i.e. YOUR salvation, from day to day. If there’s anything that can never lose it’s meaning, it’s the Lord’s salvation. Jesus – the plan, the mission, the cross, the blood, the empty grave, the sins of my past forgiven, the stains of my heart washed away, the hope of Heaven, the victory over the grave – HALLELUJAH!
Sing the salvation of the Lord! Sing the new song – with a fresh voice, and a fresh spirit, sing renewed – sing to the Lord – bless His name!
Lord of Heaven and Earth, Lord of glory and of strength, You are great, and greatly to be praised. Truly splendor and majesty are before You. You dwell in strength and beauty. I praise You and thank You for Your wonderful deeds – the gift of life, promise of Your coming, and most importantly, Your salvation. For Jesus, for the plan You formed from long ago, for the cross – the death of Your Son, for not giving up on me, offering me a gift I truly do not deserve – the forgiveness of my sins – the hope of Heaven, Father though it seems not enough, thank You. I praise You. May my song always seem as new, as genuine, as heartfelt, for Great are You Lord, and Greatly to be praised. I love You.
The One Who Is Blessed
Psalms 1 is a familiar Psalm to most. It is easily seen as a Psalm of contrast between two very different walks of life: the godly versus ungodly; the happy versus the miserable.
This Psalm gives us the secret of a blessed man. The blessed man is in fellowship with God. He can be seen by what he does not do, as well as what he does. He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. He does not stand in the path of the sinners. He does not sit in the seat of the scoffers. Notice the progressive deterioration. It is a process of gradual erosion and movement in the wrong direction until finally, we settle on a permanent place with our surroundings. What once use to bother us no longer moves us. Lot and Samson are examples of this path.
But the man is blessed not simply by what he does not do but also by what he does. It is not enough to stop doing something. We must move positively in the right direction. He delights in the law of God. He meditates on the law, day and night.
As a result, the blessed man has stability like a tree planted by the water. He is reliable, like fruit that yields in its season. He has prosperity in his walk with God, not the ungodly. The blessed man is blessed many times over, not the wicked. The godly delights and meditates upon the word, not the wicked. The godly is like a strong and solid tree, not the wicked. The godly one if fruitful and productive, not so of the wicked. The wicked are blown away like the chaff. They will not stand.
The Lord knows those who are righteous, and He knows those who are wicked.
Beware of compromise. It is easy to do while striving to live a righteous life.
1. Sin is progressive, so is righteousness. Watch your steps. They turn into a walk. The direction we walk will determine who we will be.
2. Sin requires meditation just like righteousness requires meditation. What do we think about? Think on God’s word, daily.
Peaks and valleys. There are times when our faith soars, and our trust and confidence in God seems stronger with every step. And then there are days like Psalm 77 – days that are in the dark, when the heart moans – eyes full of tears, our heads clouded with doubt and confusion. We can’t sleep (v. 4). Nothing seems to comfort us (v. 2).
Here Asaph asks 6 rhetorical questions in v. 7-8:
- Will the Lord reject forever?
- Will He never be favorable (show His favor) again?
- Has His loving kindness ceased forever?
- Has His promise come to an end forever?
- Has God forgotten to be gracious?
- Has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
What causes one to feel this way? It could be sin – and thus thinking of God only brings pain, realizing the wrong I’ve done to Him (v. 3, 9). It could be storms of life – loss of job, loss of health, loss of loved ones, harm from those around me. Isn’t it interesting that in times of trouble, the seeds of doubt begin to sow just as they did for Asaph. Does God care? Has He heard my cries? Has He given up on me?
Well what’s the answer? What do we do in these moments when God seems far away? Look what Asaph did – “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (v. 11). Rather than sinking in doubt, he chases those thoughts away by remembering what God has done before. Specifically he remembers the scene of the Red Sea, when God rescued His people from the Egyptians. When it seemed like all was lost, when there was no possible way forward, God saved His people – God provided a way.
Dark days will come. Life’s storms are inevitable. I can’t decide when those hard times will come. What I can decide is how I will navigate through those hard times – sinking in doubt or rising in faith. When those seeds of doubt start creeping in our hearts (does God care? Is He listening? Is He mad at me? Has He stopped being good to me?) – chase them away by remembering the God you KNOW! Open the Word and remember – God is good all the time. God is Faithful – He always keeps His promises. God can do all things – if He can part the waters of the Red Sea, He can part the waters and move the mountains in my life. God loves us always (Romans 5:8). God is gracious and willing to forgive those who turn from their sins.
Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. “Surely I will remember Your wonders of old…” – don’t doubt, don’t forget – remember!
Holy God, there is none like You. Your strength, Your wisdom, Your love – they cannot be measured. Father in the times my heart is tested, in the times I’m tempted to question Your goodness, to doubt Your love, help me to remember. Help me to chase those lies away with the truth – Your Truth. You saved Your people by parting the sea. I know there is nothing You cannot do. If You cared for Your people then, I trust that You care for Your people now. Whether in the green pastures or in the dark valleys, I know I am safe so long as I am with You. Blessed be Your wonderful Name.