Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"Praise"—Psalm 150

Thirteen times in this Psalm a word is repeated. Can you guess what it is?

I’ll cut to the chase; the repeated word is “praise.”

What does it mean? And, how is it used in this Psalm?

My Funk and Warnell’s dictionary disappeared, so I can’t give you a full-blown definition for the word, but I can at least give you some common usages of the word.

“Praise” can be commonly used as a verb (an action word) or as a noun (like a name). It could also be considered an invitation or command to do something. In this Psalm I believe that these all would be quite accurate. In this Psalm “praise” is both an invitation and a command. That is, God’s people are invited to worship God and acknowledge all He does; and as a command it behooves us to publicly and privately acknowledge and give recognition of God and His work and will.

As we come to the close of the Easter season and what our God has done and what He offers all people in Jesus Christ, “praise” is appropriate. It is the right thing to do. God has, indeed, done all things well. God made all things by the power of His Word. After people sinned in thought, word, and deed He sent His beloved Son to live, die, and rise again for the forgiveness of sinners like us. God didn’t have to do this, but because His love for all people was so great, He did this anyway.

So, we turn to Psalm 150 as we continue through the Easter season.

[1] Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! [2] Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! [3] Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! [4] Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! [5] Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! [6] Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

"Comfort"—Psalm 23

I sometimes wonder how many people actually think about the word “comfort,” especially as it is used in Psalm 23. I have gotten a lot of ideas from how people often use the word in everyday talk and thought. That is, they often seem to give the impression that “comfort” means something soft and warm and cuddly; but such an idea would not fit what King David was driving at in our reading. He was writing from the perspective of a shepherd out in the field with his flock. I suspect that he was writing about what he wanted but maybe didn’t have—a secure and safe place of refuge.

In fact, in verse one of our Psalm that is exactly what King David says! “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Freedom from want takes many forms: a full tummy, a quiet night’s rest, and safety to mention a few examples that could have occupied the mind of a young shepherd boy. These could certainly add to a person’s “comfort.”

There is more, though! The “comfort” King David wrote about is more clearly described in verse three: “He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” This gets pretty close to what I (at least) think of with the word comfort. I understand “comfort” as strength and resolve. I think back to my high school days, when I experienced a dislocated finger during a football game. I showed my coach/trainer my misdirected finger (it was pointing sideways) and he fixed it! He grabbed it by the end and simply pushed it straight! He fixed it! It hurt for a while, but I had no lasting ill effects.

I wouldn’t recommend such a treatment for anyone, but it worked for me.

The idea of true comfort, I think, is like this. We may not eliminate all the bad things, the hurt, the things that frighten us or dismay us, but we can learn to persevere and survive. We may even succeed!

The rod and staff King David mentioned in verse 4 are the Word of God and the holy sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. They defend us and strengthen us against the devil’s attacks, and they direct and encourage us to live as Christ Jesus’ followers. They enable us to serve Him.

This brings us to the payoff. Verse six says it all: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This is where we will find and experience true and lasting warmth, peace, joy, and freedom from want forever! All because Jesus went to the cross, the grave; and then rose from His grave to utterly defeat Satan and destroy his thrall over humankind.

We pray: Lord God Almighty, we give you thanks and praise your holy name for sending Jesus to be our Savior from sin and to destroy Satan. Amen.

"Hurt and Help"—Psalm 4

I love this Psalm! It is a prayer spoken in faithful confidence in God, not desperation and doubt.

King David, in today’s Psalm (Psalm 4), probably was speaking to such a time in his own life, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that he has given us a wonderful prayer that speaks of human hurt and divine help. The hurt people often experience is often physical, but it could also be emotional. But the pain is real!

Many people have had to deal with the distrust, disdain, and outright animosity of others. Sometimes it is from relatives or friends. Sometimes the hatred and distrust come from enemies or total strangers. People may wear different or odd clothing. They may have strange sounding names. Perhaps they come from the wrong part of town, are country “bumpkins,” or go to the wrong church or school. Perhaps you have felt the burn of such attitudes. I know that I have—and it isn’t fun. Where should people go for relief and comfort?

Verses seven and eight of Psalm 4 give us the answer. “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:7–8)

Someone once asked me what would the worst thing that could happen to a person: illness or disease, war, fire, natural disaster, dying alone are all on many folks short list. I, myself, suspect that the worst, however, would be what Jesus Christ experienced during His crucifixion. St. Mark, in chapter 15, verse 34 recorded Jesus’ dying words: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Having God turn His back on anyone is a thought that boggles my mind. This is what Jesus experienced for us and our salvation from sin, death, and the power of Satan.

Now consider verse one of our Psalm: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” This is exactly what God did for King David, for Adam and Eve, Abraham, and all sinners. This is what God has done for you and me, too! He has answered our pray for deliverance and salvation, for permission to enter His presence, to live forever with Him. God has indeed given us relief in our distress! His name is JESUS!

We pray: Lord God Almighty, Father, Son and Spirit, you have given us true and absolute relief in our distress and pain! His name is Jesus; and in his name we pray and give you thanks and praise. Amen.