Today, we explore Psalm 98. Almost three centuries ago, this psalm inspired an English hymn writer who was working on a collection of compositions based on the Psalms. Most of Isaac Watts’s psalm-based hymns have been long forgotten. However, one of his compositions remains extremely popular today. In fact, I’ll bet you could sing at least one verse from memory. This hymn is based on Psalm 98.
It makes sense that there should be a necessary connection between God’s glory and our praise, as in the phrase “for the praise of his glory…” The more we perceive God’s glory, the more we consider his self-revelation to us, the more we reflect on his marvelous deeds, the more we will be drawn to praise him with our words and our lives and, indeed, with our very being.
Why are you here on earth? Why do you exist? … This is a big question, of course, not the sort of question that can be fully answered in a few words. But it is worth noting that Ephesians 1:12 answers the “Why do you exist?” question clearly and succinctly: “for the praise of his glory.” There it is. You exist for the praise of God’s glory. That’s why you’re here on earth.
Sometimes we can sense that God is working out everything in our lives… Yet, there are times when we simply cannot fathom God’s work in our lives and in our world. It can feel as if God is distant or even cruel. We look around and see all things in disarray. Our own hearts share in this disorder. Thus, our faith that God is working out all things according to his will can be sorely tested. When this happens, we need God’s help to hold fast to the truth of Scripture.
Ephesians 1:11 refers to God in an unusual way. The verse does not say, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of God,” though this is clearly the basic point. Rather, the verse refers to God as “him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” … In tomorrow’s devotion, I will consider the implications of God working out everything according to his will. Today, I want to highlight the simple fact that God is working.
I’m not quite sure how my parents, Bible-loving Christians, dealt with Psalm 97… I do wonder what they thought when they came to Psalm 97:10: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” What’s surprising about this verse is not just its unsettling use of “hate.” The context is equally or even more unnerving: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” Love and hate in one short sentence of one verse!
Lent is a time to come before God with consistency, to open your heart to his mercy, to make yourself available to his grace. No matter what you do or don’t do during the weeks before Good Friday and Easter, I would urge you to draw near to God regularly so that you might be renewed in your relationship with him and so that you might be ready to experience more deeply and truly the passion and resurrection of Christ.
Ash Wednesday has everything to do with work. We see this in the biblical passage that provides the basis for the Ash Wednesday worship… Until we die, we will do battle with “thorns and thistles” in our work (3:18). We will be productive, but only “by the sweat of [our] brow” (3:19). Thus, our mortality, which is signified through the ashes of Ash Wednesday, is first experienced in our work, which, because of sin, can be painful and unhappily toilsome.
If we were to compose a new set of “laws” or basic truths from Ephesians, we might begin with something more like this: God loves all things and has a wonderful plan for everything… including you! If we want to know God’s plan for us, we begin not with ourselves, nor with our passions, nor with our struggles, but with God, God’s amazing grace, God’s transforming love.
The central mystery of God, his plan to unite all things in Christ, isn’t just lofty theology that makes no earthly difference. In fact, this mystery revealed in Christ has everything to do with who we are as God’s people and how we are to live each day in the world. It speaks to how we live in our families, churches, workplaces, and neighborhoods.