Thirsty Thursday- “Resolutions?” Psalm 76

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Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared. (Psalm 76:11)


Now that the dust has cleared and all the confetti has been swept up from our December 31 celebrations…maybe this would be a good time for some of us to make some New Year’s resolutions!

“But it’s too late,” you object. “We’re already two weeks into 2020!” Yes, it’s true…if you insist on coloring inside the lines, your deadline for resolutions has come and gone. But maybe that makes this a perfect time to stop and think about what kinds of things you hope to change—what sorts of promises you want to make…and keep.

For the past several Januarys I have conducted my own “informal poll” in the churches I’ve served. On the first Sunday of the new year I will ask for a show of hands of those who have made resolutions, and each year I seem to be seeing fewer and fewer hands. There’s a reason most people shy away from making resolutions. We all know that most of our plans and promises and best intentions tend to fall by the wayside much sooner than we care to admit. We miss one day of exercise, then a second day, and the next thing we know everything we had re-solved has suddenly dis-solved. We don’t like being reminded of our weaknesses and failures, so why make resolutions we can’t keep?

It will come as no surprise, then, that according to one nation-wide poll the number one New Year’s resolution this year was to “Keep my New Year’s resolutions.” And another one that made the list was “Stop making New Year’s resolutions!”

The history of our modern-day New Year’s resolutions dates all the way back to the ancient Babylonian culture nearly 3,000 years ago. That means the practice is even older than today’s psalm. And while this song of Asaph isn’t about making promises to ourselves that we know we’ll never keep, the writer does instruct us to make and keep promises to God.

Psalm 76 is a fairly straightforward song of praise to the Warrior God who “dwells in Zion” (vs. 2), who conquers Israel’s enemies (vs. 3-6), who reigns in radiance and majesty (vs. 4), and who rules and pronounces judgment throughout the world (vs. 7-10). He is the one who, “breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.” (vs. 12)

But in the midst of all the praise for who God is and what God has done, the psalmist invites his congregation to an active response of worship:

Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
    let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared. (Psalm 76:11)

In other words, it’s time for all the surrounding nations to pay up and it’s time for all the people of God to pray up!

 Asaph instructs the faithful people of God to “make vows” to God—to offer promises and commitments and resolutions—in response to what the Lord has done for them.  And Asaph acknowledges that just making those vows isn’t good enough—it’s living them out that counts.

We worship this same Warrior God today…the “One to be feared.” We worship Jesus—God the Son—who came to dwell among us; who has defeated every enemy on the cross; who rose again in radiant light; who ascended the throne of heaven; and who will come again to rule and to pronounce judgment throughout the world (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). In the presence of this great God, what does our active response of worship look like?

With Asaph the psalmist, I want to invite you to consider this fearful and awesome God…this gracious and loving Savior…and to offer him whatever promises and commitments and resolutions you can.  In fact, I urge you to offer Him nothing less than your whole self, as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:1-2). I encourage you to make vows to Christ and to fulfill them—not just because you are looking forward to a new year ahead, but because Jesus the King has given you a whole new life!  He is the Living Water; let him fill you and change you, let him flow through you to change the world around you; and always stay thirsty for him!

Pastor Philip


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