Part 3

Experiencing Hardship - Try True Worship (Header 1)

A Commentary on Psalm 118

A Commentary on Psalm 118

In our first post we introduced how worshiping God through our fears and hardships unleashes divine power in our lives, and we used the writer of Psalm 118 as our primary example. Give Thanks 2 Then in our second post we continued our in-depth look at this special Psalm, and proceeded to reveal Scriptural proof that encountering our fears and hardships with an attitude of worship will also make us conduits of God’s power, to a lost and dying world. In this third post we will conclude our in-depth look at Psalm 118, but before we read through our psalmist’s closing words let’s quickly review another story concerning an additional faithful worshiper of God — Gideon.

In the book of Judges is where we find Gideon’s account of how God used him to return Israel’s worship to God, as most of Israel was at this time worshiping Baal. Gideon was timid and shy at first, and though he worshiped and obeyed God he would do so in his way — with a doubtful heart. But when God commanded him to fight the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples who had joined forces to destroy Gideon and his faithful few, the Almighty used a transformed and obedient worshiper to defeat thousands with only three-hundred:

“Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he [Gideon] placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. ‘Watch me,’ he told them. ‘Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, “For the LORD and for Gideon.” ’ Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’ While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.” (Judges 7:16-22)

Gideon’s faithful obedience and worship released the power of God upon the land, and Israel’s enemies were defeated. (You can read this entire narrative in Judges 6:1-7:25.) It was the same for our author; in verses fifteen through seventeen we can continue to feel how God’s power was welling up inside this man:

“Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!’ I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

Our author doesn’t fear his enemy. No, he exalts God’s love and power! This individual doesn’t fear mortal death, but acknowledges life because he knows the “Author and Giver of Life.”

You see, it does not matter that we have failed in our lives. God knows we aren’t perfect. Ever since mankind chose self-worship over the true and perfect worship of God we have struggled to regain our righteousness. But you see, righteousness was given to us by God when He created us. Humanity never could lay claim to such purity, it was always the property of our divine Creator. I understand that mankind was able to remove God’s righteousness by rejecting God’s purpose, will, and plan, but we could never hope to regain this divine quality once we gave it up — this thing called “righteousness” — unless God made a way to return it to us. Our “man of letters” understood this truth too.

“The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:18-23)

clouds 6 See how he realizes he has deserved God’s discipline, and has even embraced it. Why? Because he also knows his fate should be death, but God has chosen to make a way for him to escape this fate and live. He acknowledges that his righteousness has been restored to him by God, by way of this “gateway” that his divine Creator has provided him. Thus we see a glimpse of what was yet to come in the human embodiment of God’s Word — Jesus Christ — His only begotten Son (John 1:1-5). What a marvelous thing to embrace, and what a confounding mystery for so many who have yet to grasp it.

As our writer closes out this psalm, he returns to his anthem of praise and worship:

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and He has made His light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:24-29)

Again, our psalmist is praising and worshiping God for His never ending, never changing love for His people, and again he encourages others to join in and enjoy the very presence of God. These are still plain words of worship towards God, but oh what power they posses. We too can access the divine, if we will just worship God in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). That spirit being the Holy Spirit of God, Who indwells each of us who have become true believers, and the truth being the very Word of God — Jesus Christ — who gave us access to the divine Father through His gracious sacrifice and awe-inspiring resurrection.

So as you experience your fears, meet them “head-on” with an attitude of worship! We all will have to endure some type of dread. For many it will be an uncomfortable circumstance such as dealing with heights, seeing a dentist or doctor, or even public speaking. Maybe for you its a fear of insects, snakes, and spiders. Possibly its an anxiety towards dogs, enclosed spaces, flying, loud noises or storms. What ever the distress may be in your life, consider the words penned in this psalm and remember, “In the name of the LORD I [meaning you and me] cut them off.”

The same goes with your hardships. When these times of misfortune appear, attack them with an attitude of worship! It may be a bankruptcy, divorce, or the loss of a job that brings you anguish. It quite possibly may be addiction, disease, a mental disorder, or physical pain that causes you to feel destitute. It may even be the death of a close friend or relative, a major move, or poor employment that causes you trouble. No matter the tribulation, recall that it is God Who is bigger than all our problems. And if God lives in you, then you too can “look in triumph” over your “enemies,” just as our psalmist did.

Suffering 3 This speaks volumes to me, because my hardship (as of the date of this post) is stage four colon cancer. This really ministers to me because my fear is the side affects from my chemotherapy treatments. Yet, because I have chosen to glorify God in this rough season of life, I can “cut off” the cancer that engulfs my body. Because I choose to possess an attitude of worship, and not focus on my discomfort and pain, I can “look in triumph” over these dread “enemies” known to me as anemia, discomfort, fatigue, pain, tumor growth, and all the other various side affects I am experiencing and will continue to experience until I’m healed.

Please understand that I am not promoting a “name it and claim it” doctrine; our psalmist wasn’t either. We cannot command our heavenly Father to do our bidding simply because we say so in His Son’s name. Our request must be in line with God’s divine purpose, will, and plan for our lives (Romans 12:2-3; Ephesians 1:3-12, 5:15-17; Hebrews 10:35-36; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15). Outside of God’s holy and righteous intent, our petitions have no authority. It is the LORD’s authority that matters; it’s His sovereignty that controls all things physical and spiritual.

The writer of this psalm came to understand our sovereign God’s authority and power over all things. He laid claim to this divine clout by allowing himself to rest in God’s sovereignty. It was through his godly worship that he could focus on this truth. It was through his reverent worship that he became a worthy vessel of God’s might and righteousness. It was through his joyous worship that God’s perfect intent for this man could be fulfilled, and God’s awesome power be made visible through this writer’s life, in spite of the changes taking place; no matter the unexpected situations that transpired around him.

So in closing, I invite you to join with me — you in your hardship and me in mine — and together let’s, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Experiencing Hardship? Try True Worship! by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.


8 thoughts on “Part 3

  1. Good series. I have Tim Keller’s book on Pain and Suffering. Very timely. God allows suffering in our lives. Why? We can not read the mind of God. He is inscrutable. Good Jewish rabbis accept God for who He is. Perhaps ….I can change His mind.!! Moses did! However does that apply to us?………thanks for your lessons.

    • Thank you for stopping by. I firmly believe that when it comes to “changing the mind of God,” it has more to do with God changing our will to align with His. It’s not that God was set upon punishing Israel (though He was right to want to do so), as much as He was testing Moses as a leader and liaison of Israel. God’s sovereignty dictates His response, and how we “move” within God’s awesome majesty — how we get God to respond to our requests and pleas (a.k.a: prayers) — depends largely on where we are in obeying and dwelling in God’s divine will. Glad you enjoyed the commentary on Psalm 118. Stop by again, as you can.

  2. Jason, I appreciate your thorough, well-developed approach in these posts.

    You wrote,
    “We too can access the divine, if we will just worship God in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). That spirit being the Holy Spirit of God, Who indwells each of us who have become true believers, and the truth being the very Word of God — Jesus Christ — who gave us access to the divine Father through His gracious sacrifice and awe-inspiring resurrection.”

    Overall, I agree, although I’d take minor exception with “spirit” in John 4:23-24 being equated to Spirit of God. John uses so many double meanings and multiple layers of communicating, for one thing. In addition, the “location” focus in this sub-context would seem to indicate that the “in spirit” phrasing would refer, at least in part, to something other than a physical/geographic location. In other words, I think Jesus likely had “Spirit of God” in mind, i.e., worshipping the Essence of God, but the meaning of pneuma/spirit there probably at least partially referred to the human spirit as the locus of worship, as opposed to Jerusalem or Gerizim.

    On another note, I completely appreciate your whole-hearted giving of yourself to God, and encouraging others to move in the same sphere, as you are suffering physically.

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Brian. I don’t disagree with you at all that we must worship from our human spirits — that part of us that is made in God’s eternal image. I am simply trying to emphasise that just as Christ is God’s truth from which we can be considered righteous enough to approach the Father and worship Him, so too is our worship lead and interpreted in a right manner by the direction of the Holy Spirit. The human spirit, alone, can’t participate in true worship without Christ and the “Promised One” — the Holy Spirit of God. Again, thank you for your comments and your words of encouragement to me. Please feel free to stop by anytime. 🙂

      • Excellent theological points, Jason — that Christ is truth; and that true worship, in this day and age, cannot exist unless the Christ and God’s Spirit live in us, in some way. The first of these points is particularly textually evident in John, I think. In my own history, some have tried to press the point that “in truth” means “in doctrinal accuracy” (whatever that was deemed to mean), when in fact “in truth” is much more likely to refer, in John, to Jesus. We keep growing in these thoughts, and, I hope, in the actual doing of the worship, too!

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