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Bible Insights

Praising God through Scripture

Mary’s Psalm of Praise

Luke 1:49–55

“Holy is his name.” (Luke 1:49)

Mary’s psalm of praise continues by commending God for who he is. Her recitation of his attributes builds on Old Testament truths, quotes, and allusions, presenting an informed scriptural understanding of how God has been at work.

She starts by declaring that he has done great things, which is supported by Psalm 71:19. And his name is holy (Psalm 111:9). Also, consider Isaiah’s vision where he sees seraphim praising God as “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3).

Next, she affirms that God offers mercy to those who fear him generation after generation. This comes from God, through Moses, in what we call the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5–6).

Mary continues praising God for the mighty deeds he has performed (Psalm 98:1) through the strength of his arm (Isaiah 40:10). In doing so he scatters the proud (Genesis 11:8).

God removes kings from their thrones (Daniel 4:31) and lifts the humble (2 Samuel 22:28, Psalm 18:27, and Psalm 147:6).

God also feeds the hungry and gives them what is good (Psalm 107:9).

In addition, God helps his servant Israel (that is, God’s chosen people) and shows them his mercy by providing salvation (Psalm 89:3) to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised (Exodus 32:13 and Deuteronomy 7:8).

This passage in Luke shows Mary’s deep knowledge of Scripture and her ability to weave disparate passages effectively into her psalm of praise. She has surely hidden his word in her heart (Psalm 119:11).

Though Mary’s song looks back to what God has done, it’s also a hopeful confidence in what he will do through Jesus, the child that she will soon bear. It looks forward to the salvation he will offer to all future generations.

As such, Mary’s prayer emerges as a timeless testimony to the Almighty Lord.

How well do we know God’s Holy Word?

How can we give it back to him as a song of praise in reverent worship, just like Mary did?

Prayer: Father God, may we read, learn, and meditate on your Word. Holy Spirit, speak to us and give us greater understanding of what the Bible says. Jesus, thank you for coming to save us from our sins.

[Mary’s Song in Luke 1:46–55 is also called the Song of Mary, the Canticle of Mary, or the Magnificat (Mary’s Magnificat), as in “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This song of praise reads like a psalm. Learn more about other psalms scattered throughout Scripture in the book Beyond Psalm 150: Discover More Sacred Songs of Praise, Petition, and Lament throughout the Bible.]

[This devotional is taken from the December 13 reading from The Advent of Jesus.]

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh way with The Advent of Jesus. It’s a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging read. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of wonder for the season.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do You Need to Unplug?

To Hear from God, We Must Be Ready to Listen

Advice that’s commonly given to writers is that we need to unplug from time to time to fuel our writing and feed our creativity. When we remove the distractions of our technology is when inspiration strikes. It’s when we solve writing problems and are best able to move forward with our words.

Unplug to Hear God

The same is true—even more so—with our faith. We need to unplug and have idle time—that is, available time—for us to best hear from God.

Yes, his voice can overpower anything and everything that surrounds us, but it’s much easier for us to hear when his message doesn’t have to compete with the barrage of information that we surround ourselves with and assaults us on a continuous basis.

Multitasking Divides Our Attention

I see too many people with their smartphones open when there’s no need for it. They’re engaged with their technology and miss much of the life happening around them. Though they think they can do both, they’re deluding themselves.

We can’t truly multitask. Though we can do one subconscious activity along with one conscious activity, we can’t fully do two conscious activities at the same time. One will always suffer, perhaps both.

Trying to multitask between a device and people disrespects others.

The same is true—with even more significant consequences—when we try to multitask our time with God. We can’t be fully present with him when we’re partially engaged with our technology.

To be with God we need to unplug.

Remove Distractions

But it’s not just our technology that contends with our time with God. Yes, the place to start is to put away our smartphones, turn off the television, and walk away from our computers. Yet, our busyness can also keep us from God.

When we pack every moment of our life with intention, we effectively remove God from our schedule—from our life. True, he can interrupt our plans to interject his own, but how open are we to do this? And how do we react when he tries to get our attention?

Though we need to be careful not to take this too far, sometimes we should unplug from life. This doesn’t mean to isolate ourselves or forgo social interaction, but it does mean that sometimes we need to be quiet to listen for God’s still and small voice.

Open Our Ears

The sons of Korah write that the Almighty says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV). We start this when we unplug, stop multitasking, and remove distractions from our lives.

Then we can open our ears and hear what God wants to tell us. We can be in his presence. We can bask in his glory. And then we’ll have the best chance to hear what God has to say.

When people complain that they don’t hear from God, I wonder how hard they’re trying. If they unplug and be in a posture to receive, they’ll have a much better chance.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Christian Living

Celebrating Scripture’s Other Psalms

Discover More Psalms in the Bible from Exodus through to Revelation

Paul writes to the church in Colossae that they are to teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their heart to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).

He writes a similar sentiment to the church in Ephesus: “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18–19).

The book of Psalms feels like an ideal place to start this quest.

Some people think of the Psalms as a collection of Hebrew poems. I like that. Others call it a prayer journal. I like this perspective too. Just as our prayers cover a range of styles and emotions, so do the Psalms.

We can have Psalms (and prayers) of praise, lament, thanksgiving, and so forth. Some Psalms burst forth as a corporate hymn, while others seep out slowly as a personal prayer of anguish.

Whatever our mood or perspective there’s likely a psalm that captures our emotion and our heart. It’s no wonder, then, that people over the centuries have so treasured the Psalms.

The range of content addressed by the Psalms covers a wide array of themes.

Bible scholars attempt to classify the Psalms by topic, but there’s little agreement in their groupings. The labels they use include hymns, laments, thanksgiving, praise, compassion, liturgy, prophecy, petition, and so on.

The Bible’s Other Psalms

Yet not all the Bible’s psalms reside in the book of Psalms. Other psalms occur throughout Scripture from Exodus to Revelation. This book collects these randomly located passages to make it easy to find them and to immerse ourselves in them.

Compiling this list of these other psalms scattered throughout Scripture has been a time-consuming yet stimulating task. To create this list, I looked for passages of song and poetry that provided personal or community prayer and worship.

This book contains those passages, with sixty-seven more biblical psalms for us to contemplate, commiserate, or celebrate. As we do, may God receive our attention and adoration.

Some of these psalms appear in paragraph form instead of as poetry. This is because of the translation used, not because these passages aren’t biblical poetry. Regardless of the format, embrace each one as a psalm.

Given that Psalm 151 is in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew, used in Jesus’s day), we’ll start our numbering of these other psalms at 152. This is for convenience and structure, nothing more.

Explore the other psalms—sacred songs of praise, petition, and lament—scattered throughout the Bible in Peter’s book Beyond Psalm 150.

[In exploring these other psalms scattered throughout the Bible, we’ll use the World English Bible (WEB) as our text. It’s based on the revered American Standard Version of 1901 and updated for today’s readers.

Notable in the WEB is the use of the Hebrew name Yahweh (or sometimes just Yah) instead of Lord or Jehovah. It adds a sense of awe, connecting us today with our faith’s Hebrew heritage.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Bible Insights

Should We Pray Against Our Enemies or Pray for Them?

Some Psalms Ask God to Punish Our Enemies and Those Who Do Evil

Many people enjoy reading the Psalms. They appreciate the poetic nature of its words. They find encouragement to persevere and inspiration to strengthen their faith. Many Psalms also lead us into our worship of God. These are some of the best.

However, other Psalms carry a negative focus. These Psalms request that God punish people for the wrong things they have done to him, society, and to us. This presents a challenge to my view of God and my theology of faith.

Is it okay for us to ask God to favor us, while we beg him to hurt our enemies? After all, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, do good to them, and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28).

Yet David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22), does just the opposite. He asks God to vindicate him by destroying his enemies.

David’s Prayer of Retribution

Consider some of the key points from David’s petition of retaliation in Psalms 109:6-15:

  • Send someone to fight my enemy.
  • Find him guilty.
  • Let his prayers condemn him.
  • Cut his life short so that his children become orphans and his wife, a widow.
  • Make his children homeless and beg for food.
  • Have his creditors repossess everything he owns.
  • Don’t let anyone be nice to him or pity his poor, orphaned kids.
  • Let his family line die out.
  • Hold him accountable for all the sins of his ancestors.
  • Don’t forgive him for the wrong things he’s done.

Wow! That’s quite a prayer. It’s one that I would never dare say. Yet, I must admit, there are times I wish God would do bad things to bad people.

Though the Old Testament of the Bible records David’s harsh, revengeful prayer against his oppressors, we must remember Jesus’s command to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us (Luke 6:27-28).

Both of these appear in the Bible, and it’s left to us to determine which one should guide our prayers. May we choose wisely.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 106-109, and today’s post is on Psalms 109:6-15.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Balance Freedom of Speech with Being Careful in What We Say

The Tongue Is a Dangerous Tool that We Must Tame

In one of his Psalms, David writes that he will be careful in what he says so that he doesn’t sin. He talks about putting a muzzle on his mouth (Psalms 39:1). He says nothing about having freedom of speech.

James is clear about the dangers of an uncensored tongue. A small part of our body, the tongue can do great harm, setting a whole forest on fire from the single spark of a careless word.

What we say can corrupt our whole being, setting our life on fire, a fire born from hell (James 3:3-6).

Jude likewise warns about us saying too much. He writes about people who slander what they don’t understand, operating on instinct like irrational animals. In doing so we destroy ourselves (Jude 1:10).

Freedom of Speech

Today too many people assume that freedom of speech gives them the unfettered right to say whatever they want. In the process they often hurt others and risk making themselves look foolish. Or worse yet, their tongue causes them to sin.

They—and us along with them—will do well to put a muzzle on our mouth, to tame our tongue. We should use our words to praise God (Psalm 40:3) but never to cause harm to another.

Watching our words with care will keep us from sin and setting our souls on fire.

Responsibility of Speech

As a society we will do well to follow David’s example, as well as James’s and Jude’s wise counsel. Instead, too many people grasp the concept of free speech that we can say whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want without a thought given to the consequences.

Yet freedom of speech carries a responsibility. Our freedom of speech is not without limit. As followers of Jesus, we have a duty to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to muzzle our mouth so that we do not sin, and to not say things that may harm others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 36-40, and today’s post is on Psalms 39:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Longing for God

May Our Soul Pant for God with the Same Urgency as a Deer Panting for Water

King David penned Psalm 41. He opens with a powerful image of a deer panting for water. It illustrates David longing for God. David concludes his song by confirming he will praise God. Sandwiched between the opening and ending of this Psalm, David shares the turmoil churning in his soul.

But we’ll focus on the opening two verses.

A Deer Pants for Water

Imagine a thirsty deer running up to a stream, anticipating a refreshing drink of water. This isn’t so much as to keep the deer hydrated. It’s more urgent. The deer, a mighty buck, has traveled a distance and has a vital need to drink. He’s dehydrated and needs water to live. The deer needs living water.

The buck pants after traveling in the hot sun. His chest expands and contracts as he sucks in as much oxygen as possible, as quickly as he can. He perks up his ears to listen if danger lurks. He looks right and then turns left. Confident he is for the moment safe, with no predators nearby, only then does the deer dip his head down to drink from the cool, energizing water he so longs for.

Our Souls Pant for God

Just as the deer pants for water, do we have a similar longing for God? Does our soul—our mind, will, and emotions—pant for God? Does our soul thirst for him? Do we need the living God as much as the deer needs living water to survive?

As the deer traveled in the hot sun to find life-giving water, we, too, travel through the difficulties of life to find God’s living water. But for me my search doesn’t feel as imperative. Yes, I know I should have a longing for God. But in actual terms, my search for him, and to be with him, doesn’t carry the urgency it should.

Seek God with All Your Heart

For our soul to pant for God the way a deer pants for water, we can start by seeking God with our whole heart. Three of David’s other songs mention this: Psalm 22:26, Psalm 27:8, and Psalm 69:32.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 41-45 and today’s post is on Psalm 42:1-2.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Peter DeHaan News

New Book: Beyond Psalm 150

Discover More Sacred Songs of Praise, Petition, and Lament throughout the Bible

The Psalms capture our emotions in a unique way, but they’re not limited to one book of the Bible. Study more sacred songs that appear from Exodus to Revelation.

Explore the beauty and delight of the psalms that appear throughout the Bible. You’ll learn about songs of lament and praise as you immerse yourself in the lesser-known poems of Scripture, written by people of faith, like Moses, Esther, Mary, and more.

Beyond-Psalm-150-Cover

Biblical psalms recognize what God has done throughout the history of his people. Beyond Psalm 150 is a treasure that helps you to uncover these awe-inspiring songs of worship and praise that often get missed in the study of God’s Word.

Both a devotional and a Bible study, Beyond Psalm 150 gathers these buried passages to make it easy to immerse yourself in their themes, meaning, and poetic style.

Each psalm in this book includes a reflection, a thought-provoking question, and a blessing, giving you the chance to understand and appreciate these expressions of worship in a fresh, new way.

In Beyond Psalm 150, you’ll:

  • Discover sixty-seven songs of worship that don’t appear in the book of Psalms
  • Explore how you can apply these words to your life today
  • Develop insights about each psalm in the context of the story
  • Dive deeper into the Word to better understand each song
  • Explore Biblical worship songs throughout the Old and New Testament

Beyond Psalm 150 will help you gain a greater appreciation for the God who holds history in his hands and how he has shaped the lives of people just like us.

Peter DeHaan, PhD, is an author of over 18 devotionals, biblical-based studies, and church resources. He yearns for Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

If you desire to deepen your faith and embrace the variety of psalms scattered across the pages of the Bible, then dive into Beyond Psalm 150.

Perfect for your personal study time or small group, Beyond Psalm 150 will help you to understand these beautiful songs of praise as you worship a mighty God.

Read Beyond Psalm 150 and enhance your understanding of the psalms throughout God’s Word.

Explore the other psalms—sacred songs of praise, petition, and lament—scattered throughout the Bible in Peter’s book Beyond Psalm 150.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: The Psalms in the Light of the Lord’s Prayer

By Patricia M Robertson, D.Min

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Take a fresh look at the Psalms.

Some people love the Psalms and other struggle through them. Regardless of which camp you’re in, this book will provide added clarity.

In The Psalms in the Light of the Lord’s Prayer, Patricia M Robertson, D.Min, applies the suggestion of Father Thomas Murphy that each Psalm aligns with one of the seven phrases in the Lord’s Prayer.

This provides a pleasing structure and rhythm to the Psalms that isn’t available by reading them straight through from chapter 1 to 150.

Starting with the opening phrase, “Our Father in heaven,” Robertson teaches about this line and connects it to 12 specific Psalms that address the confidence and trust we have in God.

She repeats this process for each of the remaining six phrases in the Lord’s Prayer to produce a delightful, instructive grouping of each Psalm into an organized structure that provides clarity.

These subsequent chapters are:

  • Hallowed be thy Name: Psalms of Praise (19 Psalms) and Thanksgiving (15 Psalms)
  • Thy Kingdom Come: Royal Psalms (23 Psalms)
  • Thy Will Be Done: Wisdom Psalms (22 Psalms)
  • Give Us this Day our Daily Bread: Psalms of Supplication (10 Psalms)
  • Forgive Us our Trespasses: Penitential Psalms (10 Psalms)
  • Lead Us not into Temptation and Deliver Us from Evil: Psalms of Deliverance (39 Psalms)

Robertson ends each grouping with some thought-provoking questions for further reflection.

She concludes with some additional thoughts on the doxology to the Lord’s Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

Though she doesn’t connect this phrase to any of the 150 Psalms, be sure not to skip this part of her teaching.

The overall result is an accessible Bible study that readers can use during the seven weeks of Lent, for seven days, or even for seven months to explore the Psalms in new ways and gain fresh insights through them.

[The Psalms in Light of the Lord’s Prayer: Bible Study, by Patricia M Robertson, D.Min. February 10, 2021, 63 pages; ISBN: 9781393252573]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Bible Insights

The Twenty-Third Psalm, a Favorite Passage for Many

David Teaches Us About God as Our Shepherd

In the twenty-third Psalm, the former shepherd boy David, looks to God as his Shepherd. This short six-verse Psalm is a favorite of many, who have perhaps memorized it as a child. Here are a few of the key points we can learn from the twenty-third Psalm.

God Takes Care of Us

As our Shepherd, the Lord will take care of us in the same way a human shepherd cares for his sheep. Yes, sheep are not the smartest animals, and they need help if they’re going to survive. The same holds true for us. We’re not so smart either, and we need God’s help if we’re going to make it.

God Provides What We Need

With God as our Shepherd, we don’t need a thing. He provides everything. He gives us a safe place for our bodies to rest. And he guides us to a place of peace to restore our souls.

God Guides Us Down the Right Path

Next in the twenty-third Psalm we learn that God shows us which way to go. As our guide, he walks with us on our journey of life. Though we may not know which way to go, he does.

God Protects Us When We Go Astray

Even when we stray from his path and go in the wrong direction, he’ll protect us from the evil we may encounter. He’ll go with us. We’ll move without fear because God, as our Shepherd, will keep us safe from harm.

God Blesses Us Throughout Our Life

God, our shepherd, will make sure that goodness surrounds us and love follows us through the rest of our life. And when our life is over, we’ll hang out with him forever in his house, our eternal home.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 21-25, and today’s post is on Psalm 23.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

Spiritual Insights from a Real Shephard

By Phillip Keller (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

The idea of a shepherd overseeing his flock is a powerful metaphor of the relationship between God and his people.

Unfortunately, today’s world has largely lost touch with its agrarian roots, missing much of the deeper meaning of a shepherd’s watch and care over his flock.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 takes an interesting and insightful look at the 23rd Psalm from the perspective of a shepherd, who is also the author.

By learning how a good shepherd protects, cares, and provides for his sheep, we can gain a better understanding into how our Good Shepherd cares for us, his sheep.

Furthermore, as we learn about the sacrifices Keller made for his sheep and the ways in which they benefited—generally oblivious to his loving efforts—we gain insight into God’s sacrifices for us to keep us safe from enemies, healthy from maladies, and content in our existence.

Sometimes, though, sheep thwart the shepherd’s efforts; in this regard, Keller again shares from his experience, in which we see the loving patience of the Good Shepherd emerge.

Reading this book will appreciably change the way you read Psalm 23.

[A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller. Published by Zondervan, 2007, ISBN: 978-0310274414, 176 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.