Hope in God Alone, Part 1

By James Boice

Theme: An Appeal to Be Heard

In this week’s lessons we learn how to approach God in prayer, how to address evil, and the need for thanksgiving.

Scripture: Psalm 28:1-9

At the end of the last study I wrote about waiting for the Lord, which is where Psalm 27 ends and what we must learn to do better, since God does not usually respond to prayer according to our timetable. We do not expect to have to wait for God forever, of course. But what should we do while we are waiting? The answer is that we need to keep praying, to persevere in prayer. Significantly, this is the point to which Psalm 28 takes us. It is about importunity.

This reminds us of a story Jesus told, introduced by the words: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). He said that there was once a judge who cared nothing for God, the law or other people. There was a widow in his town who had a case that needed to be heard. The judge wasn’t interested. She had nothing to bribe him with. But she kept coming, and finally the judge said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming” (vv. 4, 5)!

Jesus’ comment was: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (vv. 7, 8).

Jesus was not teaching that God is an unjust judge, of course, or even that he is indifferent to the cries of his people. On the contrary, his point was that God is the exact opposite of the indifferent magistrate of the story and that for this reason alone you and I should be bold and persistent in praying. We need to be persistent, because God’s answers do not always come at once, which is why the story is introduced as showing that we should always pray “and not give up.”

The structure of Psalm 28 is a common one. It is called dipodia, which means stanzas of two verses. Each of the four stanzas has two verses except the second or central one, which has three. The first stanza is an appeal to God to hear the psalmist’s prayer, a prayer he had apparently been making for quite a long time.

Why do I say this? It is because David appeals to God no longer to “remain silent.” If he is appealing to God not to remain silent, it must be because he has been silent for a while. He has not been answering, and David is appealing to him to break silence and speak to him at last. He has a good argument too. For he reminds the Lord that if he remains silent, David “will be like those who have gone down to the pit” (v. 1). It is worth thinking about this on several levels.

First, the pit is Sheol or the abode of the dead. Because of the way the sentence is written we are probably not to think that David is saying that he will die or be killed if God fails to intervene, however. That might be an appropriate thing for him to have said in other psalms where he is being threatened by hostile armies. But here his plea is for justice, particularly a vindicating judgment upon the wicked who surround him with hypocritical smiles and schemes (vv. 3-5). What David seems to be saying is, not that he will be killed or die but that spiritually speaking he will be as good as dead unless God speaks to him. If God refuses to answer his prayers, how will he differ from the dying godless who have no relationship to God whatever?

Study Questions:

  1. What is Jesus teaching us about prayer from his parable of the widow and the unjust judge?
  2. How do we know that David had been making his appeal to God for some time?
  3. What does David mean by “the pit”?

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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 5

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Prescription

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

2. We seek to be heard. Sometimes children talk to us only because they want to be listened to, not really caring what we say in response, and unfortunately many parents are too busy to listen. Is God ever too busy to listen when we speak to him? Never! Why don’t we do it more often then? The reason is that we are too busy, not God. Or perhaps the reason is our sin or unbelief. Perhaps we do not really believe that God is a true listening parent, a parent who says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7).

3. We seek guidance. Which of us knows the way to walk so we will be kept out of sin and so make progress in the way of righteousness? Not one! We no more know how to live our lives for God than children know how to avoid danger and care for themselves and others. They need to be taught, as do we. In God we have one who can be turned to for guidance. David prays, “Teach me your way, O LORD, lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors” (v. 11). He prays confidently because he knows that God will do it.

4. We seek protection. The fourth thing a child looks for in a parent is protection, and David is certainly seeking this of the Lord because of his many enemies. They are the background of the psalm, being mentioned as early as verse 2 and being suggested even in verse 1 (“whom shall I fear? … of whom shall I be afraid?”). They are the bad bullies of the neighborhood, and David needs the protecting presence of God just as a small child needs his father in such circumstances.

Does David have the acceptance, answers, guidance and protection he needs from God? Yes, because the psalm ends on this note, returning to the tone of quiet confidence with which it began: “I am confidence of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (v. 13). David is not speaking about the afterlife here. He is speaking about “the land of the living”—the here and now.

But there is this warning, which I call a prescription (vv. 13, 14). The things he is praying for (and for which we pray) do not always come to us at once. God has his timings, which are not ours, and therefore what we pray for and need is sometimes delayed. What then? Are we to despair of having answers, to lose confidence? Not at all! We simply need to wait. “Wait on the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (v. 14). If some wealthy person promised to give you an expensive gift, wouldn’t you wait for it expectantly? If you were in trouble and a king were coming to your aid, wouldn’t you be alert for his appearance? God is just such a generous benefactor and powerful king. He is well worth waiting for. It is a privilege to wait for him. Yet how little true waiting most of us really do.

Study Questions:

  1. God commands us to pray to him, and yet we do not do it as often as we should. What are some reasons for this disobedience?
  2. What are the other things David asks of the Lord?
  3. What needs to characterize our waiting upon the Lord?

Application: Make a list of ways in which God has provided these things David mentions.

For Further Study: To learn more about the presence of the Lord from a well-known Old Testament story, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “The Gate of Heaven.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 4

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Prayer

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

The latter half of Psalm 27 begins with verse 7, as I pointed out earlier, and it is here that we find the abrupt change of language, structure and tone I also mentioned. The verbs change from the first or third person to the second. The earlier affirmations become prayers. The mood changes from confidence to earnest entreaty.

Here my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

In this section of the psalm (vv. 7-12) most people’s attention is directed to verse 10, which says, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” This is partially because being forsaken by a parent is so poignant, partially because so many people have experienced disappointment from a parent to some degree. One of my friends, a clinical psychiatrist, tells me that she uses this psalm often in her counseling because so many of her patients speak of being abandoned emotionally and often physically by their parents. Indeed, an increasing number seem to have been abused by them. She uses the psalm to teach her patients that God does not abandon us like our earthly, sinful parents or friends.

There is another reason why we are naturally drawn to verse 10, however, and that is because the idea of a rightly functioning parent is ideally suited to everything David says in this section he is seeking from God. What do we seek from a parent after all? We look to a parent to receive, listen to, guide, and protect us, don’t we? Well, that is exactly what David is seeking from God in these verses.

1. We seek acceptance. In the world we all experience much rejection. Parents reject children; children reject parents. Husbands reject wives, and wives, husbands. We are rejected by erstwhile friends, potential employers, people we are courting, and others in dozens of diverse situations. Most of us experience rejection from someone almost every day. But God does not refuse us. David prays, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger. . . . Do not reject me or forsake me” (v. 9), and he knows, even as he prays, that God will not forsake him. God has accepted him in the past. He will continue to accept him, as he writes in verse 10: “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.”7

Spurgeon said, “These dear relations will be the last to desert me, but if the milk of human kindness should dry up even from their breasts, there is a Father who never forgets.” He added, “Some of the greatest of saints have been cast out by their families.”8

Study Questions:

  1. Why are people naturally drawn to verse 10?
  2. What is the first thing David is seeking from the Lord, and why is it significant?

Reflection: In what ways have you felt rejected by others, perhaps even by Christians? How does this psalm instruct and encourage you through such disappointing and painful experiences? 

7The verse creates a problem for the interpreter, because it seems to say that David’s father and mother had forsaken him when, in fact, they had never forsaken him, as far as we know. Some have suggested that the words should be referred to the time David took his parents to the Moabites for safekeeping, during the years he was pursued by King Saul (1 Sam. 22:34). But in that instance it was David who left his parents rather than they leaving him. Other writers have suggested that by the time of the writing of this psalm David’s parents had died and that this is what is referred to. On the whole it is probably best to regard the verse as a hypothetical statement, which is what the New International Version tries to do by words meaning, “If my father and mother should forsake me…”

8C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1 b, Psalms l-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 4.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 3

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Desire

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

The second stanza of the psalm (vv. 4-6) expresses David’s one great desire, which is to “dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of his life” (v. 4). This sounds a great deal like Psalm 23, which ends with David dwelling “in the house of the LORD forever.” But there it has to do with heaven, while here, in Psalm 27, the reference is to the earthly tabernacle. Indeed, David seems to be ransacking the Hebrew language for nouns to describe it: “the house of the LORD” (v.4), “his temple” (v. 4), “his dwelling” (v. 5), “his tabernacle” (vv. 5, 6).

Why, we might ask, does David have this single and obsessive longing for God’s house, particularly when we remember that the glorious temple of Solomon was yet many years in the future? At this point God’s house was still a tent, the tent David erected for the Ark when he brought it from Kiriath Jearim to Mount Zion (cf. 2 Sam. 6:17).

The answer, of course, is that it was not the earthly temple itself that charmed David but rather the beauty of the Lord that was to be found at the temple in a special way. When we were studying Psalm 26 and found a similar desire (in v. 8) I suggested that David’s longing for the house of God had something to do with his being with God’s people, who would be found there. But that is not the case here. Here the reason is solely that the psalmist might “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD.” It was the Lord himself that he was seeking.

And yet, he seeks it in the temple. Quite a few commentators seem to fall all over themselves trying to prove that this was not a literal desire for God’s house but rather a matter of spiritual fellowship.4 I would argue on the contrary that, although there is some truth in this, basically it is an anachronistic and misleading distinction.

1. C.S. Lewis has unusual sensitivity for what is going on in statements like this (David’s desire to “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD… in his temple”) born of his own long and perceptive study of literature, and I appeal to him here. He begins by acknowledging the way we naturally distinguish between the forms of religion and the spiritual reality behind it. We think of an awareness of God or of God’s qualities entirely apart from the tangible elements of worship. But, says Lewis, for the ancients, including the ancient Jews, religion was not like that. The two were not separated for them but rather were joined. They actually seemed to experience God in the temple. Thus their appetite for God was something to be satisfied almost physically:

Their longing to go up to Jerusalem and “appear before the presence of God” is like a physical thirst (Ps. 42). From Jerusalem his presence flashes out “in perfect beauty” (Ps. 50:2). Lacking that encounter with him, their souls are parched like a waterless countryside (Ps. 63:2). They crave to be “satisfied with the pleasures” of his house (Ps. 65:4). Only there can they be at ease, like a bird in the nest (Ps. 84:3). One day of those “pleasures” is better than a lifetime spent elsewhere (Ps. 10).5

I am aware, as was Lewis, that we live in a different time and are ourselves very different. We remember how Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). But still, I believe Lewis is also right when he reminds us that we have probably swung too far to the other extreme and would do well to recover something of this robust Old Testament worship.

Or let me put it like this. There is something to be experienced of God in church that is not quite so easy to experience elsewhere. Otherwise, why have churches? If it is only instruction we need, we can get that as well by an audio tape or a book. If it is only fellowship, we can find that equally well, perhaps better, in a small home gathering. There is something to be said for the sheer physical singing of the hymns, the sitting in the pews, the actual looking to the pulpit and gazing on the pulpit Bible as it is expounded, the tasting of the sacrament and the very atmosphere of the place set apart for the worship of God that is spiritually beneficial. Isn’t that true? Haven’t you found a sense of God’s presence simply by being in God’s house? I do not mean to deny that God can (and should) be worshiped elsewhere. But I am suggesting that the actual physical worship of God in the company of other believers can be almost sacramental.

For what it is worth, let me state that the Puritans were not as hesitant as we are on this point, since they easily linked the Old Testament temple to specific churches. Richard Sibbes said boldly, “Particular visible churches under visible pastors… now are God’s tabernacle.”6

Study Questions:

  1. What does David mean when he writes of his longing to “dwell in the house of the LORD”?
  2. From the study, what point is being made about the relationship between our awareness of God’s nature and presence and the elements of formal worship?

Application: How does this psalm challenge some prevailing notions about the importance of the church and what takes place there?

4For example, see Alexander Maclaren: “This aspiration of the psalmist…depends not on where we are, but on what we think and feel; for every place is God’s house” (The Psalms, vol. 1, Psalms 1-37 [New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893], p. 141).
5C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), pp. 50, 51.
6C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 10.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 2

By James Boice

Theme: Three Things God Has Been

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

In addition to Psalm 27:1, we have to go to the New Testament to find a good parallel between God and light. When we do we find that there “light” is a name for Jesus Christ: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. . . . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:5, 9). John, who makes this identification, also says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

What is this image supposed to mean? In the gospel of John it has to do with understanding, which is why it is applied to Jesus. It is in him that we see or understand what God the Father is like. In 1 John light has to do with God’s purity or sinlessness, because it is opposed to the darkness of sinful behavior (v. 7). What about Psalm 27? Here the term is not specifically explained. It could suggest illumination, purity, joy, life and hope, among other things. But since David is thinking about his enemies and is seeking deliverance from them, Craigie is probably right when he says, “The psalmist is affirming that even in the darkness of the terrible threat of war, he has no fear, for God is the light that can dispel such darkness.”2

2. My salvation. The Hebrew word for salvation means “deliverance” explicitly, and again this probably has to do with deliverance from the king’s immediate enemies. The very next psalm expresses the same idea when it says, “The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one” (Ps. 28:8).

3. The stronghold of my life. The military images and the concerns they represent continue over into the third of these great images for God, namely, a refuge or stronghold, for David needs a refuge from his foes. He had it in the past. Therefore, he will not fear any future dangers. Even if his foes should attack, an army should besiege him or war should break out against the nation, David will not fear as long as God is his stronghold. Proverbs 18:10 expresses the same idea saying, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run to it and are safe.”

On the other hand, we have to say that although these three images for God all probably have to do with military deliverance and protection in this setting, they also and rightly suggest even greater meanings to us. Light speaks of spiritual understanding. Salvation points to the greatest of all deliverances, namely, deliverance from sin by the death of Jesus Christ. Stronghold refers to that spiritual refuge from the pains and buffetings of life which God himself is for his people. For us this is a well-rounded statement of God’s manifold spiritual blessings, and it has generally been so understood. John Stott puts our understanding well when he says, “The Lord is my light, to guide me; my salvation, to deliver me; and the stronghold of my life, in whom I take refuge.”3

Study Questions:

  1. What do the various passages in the New Testament mean when they link God and light?
  2. How does the image of God as light apply in the psalm?
  3. What does “salvation” mean in this psalm? What are other ideas or emphases in the Bible?
  4. David also describes God as his stronghold. What does that mean?

Reflection: In what ways have you seen the Lord at work as your stronghold, or for someone you know?

For Further Study: If you would like to have James Boice’s clear and practical sermons on the Psalms for your own personal study, the three-volume set is available for 25% off the regular price. 

2Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 231.
3John Stott, Favorite Psalms, Selected and Expounded (Chicago: Moody, 1988), p. 36.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 1

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Confidence

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

Psalm 27 is one of the best known and most comforting psalms in the Psalter. But it is hard to know whether it is chiefly a psalm of confidence, written against the dark background of David’s many enemies, or whether it is chiefly a lament in which David cries out for help against implacable foes. The reason for the confusion is obvious. The first half of the psalm (vv. 1-6) exudes confidence. The second half (vv. 7-14) is a very moving prayer.

It is no surprise to anyone acquainted with the nature of critical scholarship to learn that these two moods, reflected in the two parts of the psalm, have led some writers to argue that these are actually two psalms awkwardly put together. They point to the change in mood, plus some corresponding differences in structure. They explain that in the first part God is referred to in the third person, and in the second he is addressed directly.

But there is another side to this argument. There are links between the psalm’s two halves. The enemies whom David fears in part two are also present in part one (vv. 2, 3), and the desire to dwell in God’s house in order to “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” in the first half (v. 4) finds a natural sequel in the later determination to seek God’s face (v. 8). What is even more significant is that the two chief themes of part one, confidence in God before enemies and the desire to seek God’s face, are also the two chief themes of part two, though they occur there in inverse order: first the desire to seek God’s face, and then confidence. An arrangement like this points, not only to both parts having been composed by the same author but to both halves being parts of a single composition.

What we have here is an unfolding of two closely related moods by the same inspired author, put together like two movements of a symphony.1 And the point is that these two apparently opposing moods are also often in us, frequently at the same time or at nearly the same time. Don’t you find that you are often both confident and anxious, trusting and fearful, or at least that your mood swings easily from one to the other? I do. It is part of what it means to be a weak human being.

Since that is true of us, it should be a comfort to realize that it was also true of David. And we can be instructed by what he did at such times.

The first three verses of Psalm 27 express the soul’s confidence in God on the basis of the psalmist’s previous experience of him. David says that God has been three things to him: his light, his salvation and his stronghold.

1. My light. When any of us thinks of God, perhaps trying to visualize him, the best we can do is to think of light, remembering Paul’s teaching that God “lives in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16). For this reason, it is a bit of a surprise to learn that, although God is often associated with light in the Bible, this verse is the only direct application of the term “light” to God in the Old Testament. Job speaks of heaven as the “abode of light” (Job 38:19). Psalm 104 says that God “wraps himself in light as with a garment” (v. 2). Several verses say that “the LORD turns my darkness into light” (2 Sam. 22:29; cf. Ps. 18:28). Psalm 36:9 declares, “In your light we see light.” However, Psalm 27:1 is the only Old Testament text in which God is actually called light.

Study Questions:

  1. From the study, why is it better to see Psalm 27 as having been written by one author, as opposed to some scholars’ suggestion that the psalm is a compilation of two authors?
  2. What are some Old Testament passages that associate light with God? How does Psalm 27:1 differ from them?

Application: Do you ever feel both confident and anxious at the same time, or that your mood has shifted quickly between the two? How can this psalm help you to grow in your faith and trust in the Lord’s providence? 

1For further discussion see, Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), pp. 230, 231; and H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), pp. 234, 235.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Standing on Level Ground, Day 5

By James Boice

Theme: The Christian’s Confidence

This week’s lessons teach us that it is in Christ that God’s people confidently stand, and what the fruits are that mark one on this level ground.

Scripture: Psalm 26:1-12

During World War II a young soldier from a very wealthy and sophisticated Philadelphia family became a Christian, and when his time of service was over and he was about to go home he expressed concern that his old acquaintances would soon draw him back into the immoral life he had led before entering the army. His pastor advised him to give a testimony concerning his conversion to the first ten of his old friends he should meet. “If you speak about Jesus, either they will become converted themselves or they will drop you; you will not have to drop them,” he was told.

This is what the young man did. “The most wonderful thing has happened to me,” he said to the first and then to the second and third of his old friends. “I have received Jesus Christ as my Savior.” It was not long before word got around that he was “strange” since he had come back from fighting, and his friends began to stay away from him. He testified that it was a joyful and strengthening experience to be thus identified with the Lord Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

4. Love for God’s house (v. 8). The final practical element in David’s prescription for how to walk in God’s ways and live a blameless life is to love God’s house which, I presume, also has to do with loving to be with God’s people. David states this in verse 8, which says, “I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.” Putting this against what we have already seen to have been David’s heart desires, we find him choosing the company of God’s people rather than the company of sinners and the glory of God rather than the way of wickedness. We have a saying: “Bad company corrupts good character.” It is true. But it is equally true that good company develops it. If you want to grow in righteousness, you need to spend time with God and with those who are striving to model morality.

If we have had any doubts about the possible self-righteousness of the psalmist, it should be dispelled by the prayer’s closing stanza. For in it David pleads for redemption and a mercy that will spare him from the fate of sinners at the final judgment.

It is an interesting way of speaking. David has separated himself from those who are wicked in this life; now he wants God to separate him from them also in the judgment. “Do not take away my soul along with sinners or my life with bloodthirsty men; . . . redeem me and be merciful to me,” he says. Will God do it? Of course, he will, which is why David comes to the level ground of confidence he occupies in the concluding couplet. It is why you and I can have confidence too, if we are trusting in God, as David was.

Here is the way that great prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, put it:

If you have prayed this prayer, if your character be rightly described in the psalm before us, be not afraid that you ever shall be gathered with sinners. Have you the two things that David had—the outward walking in integrity and the inward trusting in the Lord? Do you endeavor to make your outward conduct and conversation conformable to the example of Christ? Would you scorn to be dishonest toward men or to be undevout toward God? At the same time, are you resting upon Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and can you compass the altar of God with humble hope? If so, then rest assured, with the wicked you never shall be gathered….but [your] feet shall stand in the congregation of the righteous in the day when the wicked are cast away for ever.5

That is a great confidence. It was the confidence of the psalmist, and it should be the confidence of each of us too.

Study Questions:

  1. Based on biblical teaching, what are we to make of someone who claims to be a Christian, yet they have no desire to go to church to worship God, fellowship with his people, or hear his Word proclaimed?
  2. What is David asking God to do in verses 9-11?

Application: Are you striving after holiness with the same intensity that we observe in this psalm?

Key Point: We have a saying: “Bad company corrupts good character.” It is true. But it is equally true that good company develops it. If you want to grow in righteousness, you need to spend time with God and with those who are striving to model morality.

For Further Study: To learn more about what it means to live righteously, download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Walking with God.”  (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

5Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Saint’s Horror at the Sinner’s Hell” in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 9 (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1969), pp. 454, 455.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

A Bible Acrostic, Day 5

By James Boice

Theme: How to Receive God’s Blessing

This week’s lessons instruct us of the need to put our trust in God throughout our lives, because he alone will never let us down.

Scripture: Psalm 25:1-22

There is one more thing that we need to see about this psalm, however. It presents a problem; it suggests a solution; it expresses confidence that God will provide the solution needed. But, finally, it also shows the attitude of heart that will enable the psalmist to receive the anticipated blessing. It has several parts.

  1. Humility (v. 9). Verse 8 says that God will instruct sinners in his ways because he is good and upright. But that implies that sinners know themselves to be sinners and that they come before God humbly, as the next verse makes clear: “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (v. 9). There is no promise in the Bible that God will teach an arrogant mind or a haughty spirit. On the contrary, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; cf. Prov. 3:34).
  1. Obedience (v. 10). The reason why many of us do not learn much about God or God’s ways is that we are not ready to obey him when he makes the way plain. We want to know what the way is before we will obey it; that is, we want to keep the options for sin open. David tells us that this will not work, since “the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant” (v. 10). We must be committed to obedience before God unfolds his loving and faithful ways to us.
  1. Reverence (vv. 12, 14). Some of us are brash in approaching God, regarding him more or less as some celestial buddy, rather than as the great, holy, awesome God he truly is. Verses 12 and 14 remind us that reverence is necessary if we would know him: “Who then is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”
  1. Expectation (v. 15). Finally, God desires a spirit of believing expectation, for, as David says in verse 15, “My eyes are ever on the LORD.” He is telling us that if we want to be taught and led by God, we must get into the habit of looking to him regularly.

Each of these characteristics need to be possessed and practiced by us. In fact, in my judgment, this is the note on which the psalm ends. You will recall from my original analysis of the acrostic pattern of this psalm that the final verse does not fit the pattern. It begins with the letter pe, for one thing. But even more noticeably, it suddenly refers to Israel when the earlier material was exclusively a personal prayer of David. This is no accident. On the contrary, it has the effect of broadening what has been said to include all Israel and therefore also to include us. It is an invitation to us to put our own name into the final couplet.

If we will come to God as David came to him, then we can say expectantly, “Redeem me, O God, from all my troubles!” and know that he will answer.

Study Questions:

  1. From the lesson, review the basic outline of this psalm. Where are the divisions for each section of the outline within the psalm itself?
  2. List and describe the elements of the heart attitude that enable the psalmist to receive the anticipated blessing.

Application: Of the four parts of our attitude, which one do you struggle with the most, and why? How will you seek to improve in this area?


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Standing on Level Ground, Day 1

By James Boice

Theme: How We Stand

This week’s lessons teach us that it is in Christ that God’s people confidently stand, and what the fruits are that mark one on this level ground.

Scripture: Psalm 26:1-12

There are two phrases in the English translation of Psalm 26 that I would like to place together, except that they occur in different translations. The first phrase is from the New International Version and is the one from which I derived the title for this study. It is from verse 12, “on level ground.” The other is from verse 1 of the King James Version: “therefore I shall not slide.” I would like to put them together, because they unify the psalm, teaching that the one who trusts God will have a level foundation on which to build a life while the one who does not trust God is on slippery terrain.

To my mind the most memorable line in the psalm is the one about standing on level ground. The others do not command much special attention. On the other hand, the other lines do link the psalm to other psalms in the Psalter.

There are similarities to Psalm 25, the one immediately preceding. Both express a quiet confidence in God (cp. 25:2 with 26:1). Both claim personal integrity for the psalmist (cp. 25:21 with 26:1 and 11). Both pray for deliverance (cp. 25:16-22 with 26:9-11). There are echoes of Psalm 1 in Psalm 25, particularly verses 4 and 5. They remind us of Psalm 1:1. Similarly, there are connections between this psalm and Psalms 15 and 24, which have to do with the moral character necessary for a human being to approach God. Psalm 15 asks, “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary” (v. 1)? Psalm 24 inquires, “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place (v. 3)? Psalm 26 seems to give answers, since in it David claims to be such a person.

Some scholars link Psalms 26, 27 and 28, since all mention the temple in some way.1 Harry Ironside saw a pattern linking the block of fifteen psalms from Psalm 26 to Psalm 39. “The first five of them, Psalms 25-29, deal largely with the basis or the ground of the soul’s confidence before God…. In the second section, Psalms 30-34, we seem to move on a step and find these psalms occupied with the heart’s appropriation of God’s salvation. … In the third section, Psalms 35-39, … we are occupied largely with the question of personal holiness.”2

In my judgment there is a natural connection between Psalm 25 and this one, but it is not to be found in verbal similarities so much as in a natural development of themes. What was the theme of Psalm 25? In that psalm David was afraid that he would be put to shame or be shown to have built upon a bad foundation in the day of testing. He asks God to teach him his ways so he will be able to walk in them and so that will not happen. In Psalm 26 he tells us that this is exactly what God and he have done. God has taught him, and he has walked in God’s ways. He has led a blameless life. Therefore, he stands (and expects to continue standing) on level ground.

I think that is the way we have to take the appeal of the opening two verses, which set the tone for the psalm. David pleads for vindication in verse 1 (“Vindicate me, O LORD”), adding in verse 2, “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”

Study Questions:

  1. What are some similarities between Psalm 26 and the preceding Psalm 25?
  2. How do Psalms 25 and 26 fit together in terms of how their themes are developed?

For Further Study: If you would like to have your own copy of James Boice’s studies on the Psalms, order yours today and receive 25% off the regular set price.

1Derek Kidner is one example. He writes, “In Psalm 26 the worshipper, as he approaches is searched by God’s demand for sincerity (cf. Ps. 15 and 24) and, in the last verse, rejoices to have found access. In Psalm 27 he sees this house as sanctuary from his enemies, and as the place of vision, face to face with God. In Psalm 28 he brings forward his petition, spreading his hands as a supplicant towards the holy of holies, and receives his answer” (Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalter [Leicester, England and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973], p. 117).
2H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952), p. 153.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Standing on Level Ground, Day 2

By James Boice

Theme: Vindication for Righteousness

This week’s lessons teach us that it is in Christ that God’s people confidently stand, and what the fruits are that mark one on this level ground.

Scripture: Psalm 26:1-12

At first glance the word “vindicate” suggests a desire to be shown to be right over against other people. But as I read this psalm I sense that it is not David’s reputation in the eyes of other people that concerns him but rather God’s vindication of the rightness of a devout and moral life. In other words, it is not his own reputation but God’s reputation that he covets. He has been trying to obey God. He is surrounded by many who think that he is foolish, just as we are surrounded by similar mockers of righteousness today. What he is asking is that God will show by the quality and steadiness of his life that a moral life is always best—for the sake of God’s own honor and for the good of those who may be looking on.

This is how the three major themes of the prayer come together. They are: 1) a plea for vindication; 2) the claim that he has led an upright life; and 3) confidence that in the end he will be found standing when the bad moral choices of others have caused them to be swept away.

We need a lot more of this kind of thinking today. Many of today’s Christians think that all that is needed for an effective Christian witness before the world is a proper presentation of gospel facts and doctrine. In other words, that all we need is words. I believe in words. I also believe that the element that is most missing in our day is sound teaching. We need teaching, teaching and then more teaching. That is what David was asking for in Psalm 25 (“teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me”). But what I am saying here is that we need something in addition. We need people who have been taught who then also walk in that way so that they demonstrate to unbelievers that the path of faith and morality is the happy and successful way to live. The goal is that, when other people’s immorality leads them to disaster, as sin always does, they might then look around and see those whose lives are working well and be directed to God by those examples.

So here is a question. You who profess to be believers in Jesus Christ, are you following in God’s ways so closely that the way of life you profess with your lips is vindicated? Is it clear to an impartial observer that your way of life is better than those of the ungodly?

If that is not the case, then you need to become more serious about the Bible’s teaching and begin to walk in God’s ways more closely. If you are a Christian, you know that the problem does not lie in God or the teachings of the Bible but in your own lack of faith, devotion and obedience. And you should pray for God’s testing, trying and examination, with the goal of a godly life, as David expressed it in another of his great psalms, Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (vv. 23, 24). If that is the goal of the testing, then the confidence that results will be without presumption since you will be reminded of your abiding need to obey and depend on God.

Study Questions:

  1. How do we often define the idea of vindication? Explain “vindication” as it is used by David in this psalm?
  2. Besides faithful teaching, what else is needed for an effective witness?

Application: In what ways do you need to follow the Lord more closely? Pray for spiritual insight and the grace to obey.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.