Psalms Readings – Week 19

Rev. Ben Lovell   -  

May 9 – Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

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

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
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.

This beautiful psalm, a favorite of many, has four major sections of six verses each. Verses 1-6 speak of God’s omniscience. Verses 7-12 speak of God’s omnipresence. Verses 13-18 reveal David’s awe and praise of God as creator. Verses 19-24 speak of David’s enemies who hate the Lord and his final prayer for God to search him for any sin so that he may walk in God’s holy way. 

“Know” is a key word in this psalm. David found encouragement and security living in a hostile world because he was confident that the Lord knew all about him. God knows our every thought, our every word even before we speak it. God has a GPS location on us at all times. Not only does he know where we are, He is right there with us. He has us surrounded. He is before and behind us. His hand is upon us. To envision God’s holy and loving presence in such a way should give us courage for the facing of each day and each circumstance in which we find ourselves. 

As David said, such a thought of what God knows is too wonderful and lofty to grasp. All thanks and praise be to the Lord for being such a God who cares so intimately about the details of our lives. 

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: What encouragement does it give you that you are known so well by God?

May 10 – Psalm 140

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

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

Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
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.

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

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.

David prays to be rescued from his enemies. He identifies these evildoers with many names and descriptions: violent, devise evil plans, stir up war, poison of vipers is on their lips, wicked, devise ways to trip others, arrogant, set a snare, wicked, proudly rear their heads, and slanderers.

David often faced severe opposition from those who were as evil as evil can be. David clearly asked God to save him from them and asked that for retributive justice so they would be punished in the same manner in which they had inflicted evil upon others. 

Through this psalm, David declares his ultimate hope is in God. In verse 6, he says, “You are my God.” The emphasis is on “my.” He has a living relationship with God. In verse 12, he is confident that God works justice for the poor and looks out for those in need. His ultimate hope is that those who belong to the Lord will praise Him and live in His presence. This is the eternal promise of Scripture. God is with us, and we are with Him. The Son of God’s first coming and promised return to establish the new heaven and earth put an exclamation mark upon this declaration of faith.    

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: What is your ultimate hope? What are you staking your life on?

May 11 – Psalm 141

A psalm of David.

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

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
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 their delicacies.

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.

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

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord;
in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
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.


Psalm 141 has many similarities with Psalm140.  Both are individual laments, are concerned with justice, and use the same hunting imagery. Unlike Psalm 140, David prays that he would remain holy and faithful in the midst of his ungodly enemies. He asks God to guard his lips so that he would speak what is appropriate for a man chases after God’s own heart. He desires for God to keep his heart pure so that he will not participate in the same evil that is attacking him. 

If he ever went the way of evil, he would welcome a righteous person to rebuke him for any sin he engaged in. David lived up to this prayer when the prophet Nathan rebuked him for his sins of adultery and murder. David humbled himself, accepted the rebuke, and confessed his evil deeds. 

A sign of spiritual maturity is when we can receive correction and discipline from God through others. 

David tells us how to maintain a faithful heart, “But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord.” It reminds us of a similar instruction in the New Testament.  

Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith… 

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: What are your eyes fixed on? Will you turn them fully to Jesus so that you can run the race of life with perseverance in order to faithfully cross the finish line? 

May 12 – Psalm 142

maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.

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

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.
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.

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

Listen to my cry,  for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
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.

Psalm 142 is the third of four consecutive individual laments where David prays for God’s mercy in the midst of a trouble. In contrast to the last two laments, David does not ask for retributive justice against his enemies. 

David’s anguish is matched by the volume of the cry that he lifts up to the Lord. He pours out his complaint. He empties himself of the anxiety within and speaks it all to the Lord. There is tremendous spiritual and emotional value in speaking/crying out loud our prayers to God.  

He is confident the Lord watches over his way as his enemy has set hidden snares for him along the journey. Today, we call them land mines, both literally and metaphorically. We may not experience them in a war zone, but we can encounter them when others set them up to bring us down. 

Verse 4 is the low point of the psalm as it stands at the exact structural center. David says he has no one who is with him, no one is concerned for him, no place to go, and no one cares for him. When we go through challenging times in life with others, it can be tough enough, but when we go it alone, we have hit bottom.  

But it’s after hitting bottom, David looks hopefully to God for deliverance. In verse 4, he said he had no refuge, now he declares that God is his refuge and his portion. Portion means his share, his allotment, his plot of ground. In other words, God gives him what no one else can. 

David calls out to the Lord because his situation is desperate. His deliverance will lead to praise, first by David himself and then by the community. The king’s deliverance leads to the praise of the people. David recognizes that his life is a witness to the larger community and desires to bring God praise so others will do the same. 

May we have such a larger view of the purpose of prayer. We will seek answers to help us in our time of need so that we can bring praise to God so others will be inspired to do so as well. 

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: In your prayers for help, how mindful are you of your desire to bring praise to God so others will praise God? How will you enlarge your vision for living as disciple-makers to ensure that everything that you ask will be used by God to draw others to Him? 

 May 13 – Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

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

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.
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.
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.

This is a lament for God’s mercy based on God’s faithful and righteous character. David sees himself as one deserving of judgment for he knows humanity cannot be righteous before God on their own. It is a similar thought to what the Apostle Paul said that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. 

We have seen this pattern before when David faced a pursuing enemy. David finds encouragement as he chooses to remember how God has been powerfully at work in his life. To reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past brings strength into today. Such memories give him courage to call out to God in prayer asking for his deliverance. 

David asks that God would not hide His face from him, that He would not withhold His favor and grace but reveal His unfailing love once again. He has chosen to put his full trust in God for His deliverance. He asks that he would be shown the way and taught the will of God so that His life will be pleasing to God. He makes a confession of loyalty to God as he says, “you are my God.”

I love his image of hiding himself in God as he envisions God totally surrounding him with His strength and protection. Paul wrote to the Colossians about being spiritually hidden in God, 

Colossians 3:1-4, Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

To be hidden with Christ in God reveals where we are today and how we will appear with Him in glory. Trusting in Christ’s redemption spiritually protects us both now and forevermore.   

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: How does the image of being hidden with Christ in God help you see the spiritual reality of your life?   

May 14 – Psalm 144

Of David.

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
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.

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

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

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.

King David pleads for God to defeat his foreign foes. In verses 1-11, David recognizes his dependence on the Lord and cries out to him to gain victory. In verses 12-15, he considers the blessings that would flow from such a victory.  

Many of the dominant themes throughout the Psalms appear here: the Lord as refuge, the request for divine intervention, the rescue from enemies, and the focus on David, the king. These themes closely parallel Psalm 2 where the Lord grants victory over the ruler’s enemies and His own. In both psalms, the Lord is a refuge where God and the king enjoy an extremely close relationship as they oppose outsiders. 

In verses 3-4, we have seen this theme before. David marvels at the fact that as small as we are in comparison to God and as brief as our lives are, why does God even take notice of us? Not only does God notice us, but He cares for us. How God can be so transcendent to create the massively immense universe while at the same time know and be concerned for each of us, is a theme we have seen several times in the Psalms. It addresses one of the beautiful mysteries of just how great and amazing our God is. 

We see this fully demonstrated in Jesus’ coming, his death, and resurrection. For God so loved us that He was willing to come to us. This should humble and cause us to shout out praise to God! 

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: Do you ever wonder, like David, how the God of the universe can know and care about each of us individually? Like David, does it lead you to deeper faith and greater appreciation for just how amazing our God is? 

May 15 – Psalm 145

A psalm of praise of David.

I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.
Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;

  they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.
10 All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power.
12 They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.

The Lord always keeps his promises;  he is gracious in all he does.
14 The Lord helps the fallen  and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,  you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;  he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,  yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;  he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,  but he destroys the wicked.

21 I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.

What a magnificent psalm of praise David has given us extolling the many wonderful attributes and actions of God. This acrostic poem draws the reader in verse by verse.  If you did not already love God as you read through it, surely, you would by the time you are finished! 

The royal authority of David’s reign as king is totally dependent on the Lord’s reign as King over him and over all. David’s reign was to be an earthly manifestation of God’s universal reign over all creation. The words “forever and ever,” which are mentioned twice in this psalm, are a prevailing theme throughout the psalms speak of the enduring nature of praise. 

Because God’s reign never ends and praise should never stop, we should see it as our privilege and joy as disciple-makers, in our families and our churches, to make sure that we faithfully pass the news of our great God on to the next generation. 

Verse 9 speaks of God’s common grace where He showers his goodness and compassion on all creation and all people. In the Wesleyan movement, we call this prevenient grace- the grace that God extends to all before they come into a relationship with Him. It’s a grace that is at work wooing and calling all into a relationship with Him. God uses people, events, crises, and His word to be His instruments at work before we even know God is at work! Even through the reading of this psalm, God is extending His grace to all so they might respond in faith to Him. 

Memory Verse: Psalm 139:5, You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Question(s) to Consider: What captures your attention from this marvelous psalm? As you look back on your life, how did God extend His grace to you before you knew what He was up to?