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!
As Christians, it’s easy to see God’s hand when we flourish in our work. But can we trust that God still calls and sends us into our work when, despite our best efforts, we are “sold out”? Perhaps some of you are facing just such circumstances. Today’s text is both reminder and encouragement that God’s providence is at work in our lives in the most difficult circumstances, and for the most unimaginable results.
For those of us with a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and shoes on our feet, it’s hard to justify any reason for complaint. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that a certain state of affairs or some event has irritated or frustrated us. Really, it’s okay… David was a master complainer, and we can follow his example. Check out Psalm 13.
The more we reflect on God’s greatness, the more we will be impelled to praise him. Moreover, we will find that our praise, however inadequate it might be, will increasingly reflect God’s nature. Because he is great, so our praise will be great. It makes no sense to be stingy in honoring one who is utterly worthy of all honor and praise.
As we begin this journey, the first insight about becoming a lead servant is that our leadership is not, in the first place, about us or even about our role as leaders. Instead, it is about God’s larger purpose and work in the world, and about his formation of us for the sake of the world he loves. We are, after all and first of all, servants.
Christians often think of worship primarily in terms of the things we do in our weekly “worship service.” Worship means singing and praying and listening to sermons and celebrating the sacraments/ordinances and putting money in the offering plate. Now, these actions may well be expressions of worship, but they focus on the externals, not the heart of worship.
In Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we celebrated the fact that, in Christ, we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing.” As you considered your many blessings, I’d be surprised if you included God’s discipline. According to Psalm 94:12, the one whom the Lord disciplines is “blessed.” We’re blessed when God disciplines us? That isn’t intuitive to me.
Those who walk in God’s ways live more meaningful and effective lives. But Psalm 92:13 adds another reason for the long-lived fruitfulness of the righteous: they “are planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God”. In other words, they have been planted so that their roots grow deeply into God’s soil. They draw nutrition from a divine source that is never exhausted.
Living in exile is an opportunity for the demonstration of faithfulness. In uncongenial, even hostile, circumstances, we are called to do our work faithfully. Much of what we do may seem insignificant. There may be less recognition that our work is of value, since what is valued has itself changed in the world around us. Still, we can—as an act of faith and faithfulness—sing the LORD’s song in a strange land.
When I was a boy, I loved playing hide-and-seek. Little made me happier than when I found the perfect hiding place, a secure enclave where no “seeker” would ever find me… In a way, Psalm 91 envisions such a hiding place. Our translation reads, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”