January 25 Hope in the darkness

HOPE IN THE DARKNESS. The callous people who cross any line, flout every law, laugh at compassion, and do whatever it takes to be happy right now are indeed those we need to fear in this life. Living a self-absorbed life will always be at the cost of everyone else. In such a dark world, David maintains hope. He remembers that cruelty always comes home to roost (verse 14). But verse 15 goes far beyond such computation, reminding us that someday we will see the Lord as he is (1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). To gaze into infinite beauty and to receive such infinite love will give us a satisfaction that will last forever.

Bible Readings
READ Psalm 17:10–15. 10 They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. 11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. 12 They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover. 13 Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked. 14 By your hand save me from such people, LORD, from those of this world whose reward is in this life. May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies; may their children gorge themselves on it, and may there be leftovers for their little ones. 15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Thank you, Lord, for the confidence your resurrection gives me that in the end all wrongs will be made right. Thank you for allowing me to rest in the assurance of my future resurrection and of living with you forever. Knowing this heals all wounds. Amen.

January 24 A Clear conscience

A CLEAR CONSCIENCE. David is not claiming to be sinless as a human; he is denying that he is corrupt as a ruler. He has not lied to his people (verse 3) or taken bribes (verse 4). He is being falsely accused but his conscience is clear. How can we always keep a clear conscience? There are two parts to it. Do the right thing. But when you don’t, immediately repent, knowing that you are “the apple of [God’s] eye.” In Christ, astonishingly, God does indeed see us as perfect (Philippians 3:9–10). So whether you are falsely accused or fallen and recovered, you can walk with your head up.

Bible Readings
READ Psalm 17:1–9. 1 Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips. 2 Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. 3 Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed. 4 Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. 5 My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. 6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. 7 Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings 9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.

Prayer: Lord, help me to not care so much what others think of me. But help me to not even care so much about what I think of myself. Remind my heart that when you look on me you find me “in Christ” and see beauty. Let me rest in that. Amen.

January 23

READ Psalm 16:7–11. 7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs
me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you
will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You
make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures
at your right hand.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME. If God is our greatest good, we get what can’t be lost
and will only increase—infinitely. The Lord is at our right hand. To be at
someone’s right hand is to be their advocate in court or support in battle or
companion for a journey. In Christ this is all literally true (Acts 2:24–36).
Because he died and rose for us, he is our representative in heaven (so we are
completely forgiven) and companion on earth (so we are intimately loved). And
someday we will not just sense him at our side but see him face to face. In our
resurrected bodies that will be endless, unimaginable pleasure (verses 9–11).
Now we have nothing to fear.
Prayer: Lord, as I lay down in sleep last night and rose this morning only by
your grace, so keep me in a joyful, lively remembrance that whatever happens, I
will someday know my final rising—the resurrection—because Jesus Christ lay
down in death for me and rose for my justification. Amen.

January 22

READ Psalm 16:1–6. 1 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You
are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” 4 Those who run after other gods will suffer
more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.
5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have
fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
IDOLS THAT DESERT. We may not believe in literal divine god-beings of beauty,
wealth, pleasure, or fertility. But we must all live for something, and if we live
for and love any thing more than God himself, we are trapped. They become
things we have to have, so we “run,” exhausted, after them. But this leads to
increasing suffering (verse 4), for life inevitably takes them from us. Instead we
must make God our portion (our real wealth), our cup (our real pleasure), our
ultimate good.
Prayer: Lord, I want the gifts of your hand more than the glory of your face. I
can root my happiness in amusements, music, food, or nice weather. But let
suffering enter the picture, and they show themselves as the tawdry baubles that
they are. Without your constant presence and favor, no thing is a “good thing.”
So I receive them with thanks, but I rest my heart and hope in you. Amen.

January 21

READ Psalm 15. 1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their
heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on
others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the LORD; who keeps an oath even
when it hurts, and does not change their mind; 5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who
does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
INTEGRITY. Who gets to draw near to God? Those who speak true words (verse
2), but in love (verse 3) and generosity (verse 5). Those who are transparent,
honest, and faithful to their word, not always changing their minds (verses 4 and
5). If we deceive, vilify, and flatter, if we make empty promises and overblown
claims, we cannot expect God’s presence in our lives. This standard not only
challenges us but also reminds us we can go to God only through his grace. No
one but Jesus ever lived with perfect integrity (Hebrews 4:15), but because he is
our Savior, we can go in to God (Hebrews 4:16).
Prayer: Lord, the sins of my tongue are so many! Forgive me for talking too
much (because of pride), for talking too little (because of fear), for not telling the
truth (because of pride and fear), for words that are harsh and cutting, for hurting
others’ reputations through gossip. Purify my words with your Word. Amen.

January 20

READ Psalm 14. 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are
vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if
there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one. 4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour
my people as though eating bread; they never call on the LORD. 5 But there they are, overwhelmed
with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of
the poor, but the LORD is their refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When
the LORD restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
FOOLISHNESS. In the Bible foolishness means a destructive self-centeredness.
Fools cannot bear to have anyone over them, and so they ignore God or deny he
exists. Some of this rebellion exists in every heart. Every sin is a kind of
practical atheism—it is acting as if God were not there. That also means that
belief in God must be a gift. This psalm is famously quoted in Romans 3:11:
“There is no one who seeks God.” Left to ourselves, we would never want to
find God, much less know him. So take heart . . . If you want God, it is because
he wants you to find him.
Prayer: Lord, I often struggle with doubts about you, and this psalm makes me
realize they don’t all come from my intellect and mind—many come from my
heart. Part of me doesn’t want there to be a God I have to obey. Increase my
faith, through your Word and Spirit, and through believing friends, “the
company of the righteous.” Amen.