It’s so enjoyable to come before you,
With uncontainable praises spilling from our hearts!
How we love to sing our praises over and over to you,
To the matchless God, high and exalted over all! (Psalms 92:1, Passion Translation)

The Passion Translation takes some liberties with the text here, but I suspect the translator would argue that he captures the meaning of the author’s original words better than most translations.  The ESV translates this verse: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.” This is an okay translation, but it hardly makes one’s heart sing.  I’ve a feeling that if the original author could understand these words in English he would say, “No, no!  You’re not capturing the heart of what I am saying there!”  I suspect he would be much happier with the way The Passion Translation captures this verse.

If we are to praise Our Great God, should it not be with praises that are uncontainable, that come spilling out of us as if they were a bubbling spring that gushes forth and simply cannot be contained?  If we do not praise him this way, then there is something wrong with us, because when we understand the majesty of his nature and the goodness of his character and the wideness of his hesed (his faithful love), how can this knowledge not end up in praise that keeps coming out and coming out like a little child who is so excited he simply cannot keep his mouth closed.  We ought to love to sing God’s praises over and over to God.  God made us to do exactly that. C. S. Lewis explains this truth about us in this manner: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

Our praise isn’t complete until we can express it, you know, like when uncontainable praises to Our Great God coming spilling from our hearts.

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God sends angels with special orders
To protect you wherever you go,
Defending you from all harm. (Psalms 91:11, Passion Translation)

The context of this verse is protection from evil and danger, even, the Passion Translation argues, from spiritual or demonic forces.

Verses 5-6 are seen by many Jewish scholars as a reference not merely to pestilence and natural dangers, but to the realm of spiritual darkness that would come against God’s servants. These spirits are equated to arrows that fly in daytime or a pestilence that walks in the darkness. God’s sheltered ones are kept from the harm that could come from natural sources or supernatural sources. What a wonderful place to hide and be secure!

As any Christian knows, this doesn’t mean that God protects us from all harm, for as Christians we are susceptible to everything that plagues man: disease, death, danger, crime, etc.
What it does mean is that everything; evil and danger in natural sources and supernatural sources, is under the authority of God our Father and can affect our lives only so far as our Father allows.

I think we will all be surprised when we get to heaven and discover how many times this verse was applicable in our lives but we never knew it.  God often works in such a way that we hardly notice.

And the nations shall know That in their iniquity were the house of Israel exiled because they had committed treachery against me, And so I hid my face from them,—And gave them into the hand of their adversaries, And they fell by the sword、 all of them.” (Ezekiel 39:23, EMPH)

Sobering words, these: iniquity, exile, treachery, hid, gave, adversaries, fell, all.

These words aren’t meant to comfort, but to record calamity and what befell the Israelites in exile can only be described in such terms: calamity, destruction, ruin, death. God had warned his people, he himself had fought [by the word of the prophets] to preserve their flagging love for him [note their idolatry], and now finally, after they had made their choice, God acted, he hid his face from them.

God being God, devastation and destruction brought on his own people is never the end of the story.  Look what Ezekiel writes just a few sentences later:

Therefore— Thus saith My Lord、 Yahweh, Now will I bring back them of the captivity of Jacob, And have compassion upon all the house of Israel,— And will be jealous for my holy Name;” (Ezekiel 39:25, EMPH)

There is the promise of restoration; there is the vow of compassion upon all the house of Israel.  So prophesied. So done.  God is always as good as his word.

God takes sin very, very seriously.  We ought to also.

 

You rule over oceans and the swelling seas.
When their stormy waves rise, you speak, and they lie still (Psalms 89:9, Passion Translation)

Ethan the Ezrahite gives us a vision of God as creator and king over the universe in this verse.  Indeed, he uses the very words of kingship: You rule over oceans and the swelling seas, because he understands that God is in sovereign authority over all that he has created, as Ethan will point out in short order: All the heavens and everything on earth belong to you, For you are the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. (Psalms 89:11, Passion Translation)

Surely Jesus fulfills this very verse some 800 years later when Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, and the wind and waves obey his command! (Matt 8.23-27) Spurgeon writes here: “As a mother stills her babe to sleep, so the Lord calms the fury of the sea, the anger of men, the tempest of adversity, the despair of the soul, and the rage of hell.”

And so Our Lord certainly does. which is why I like this song so much:

“Save me from this sorrow” is the title that the Passion Translation gives to Psalm 88.  It’s the bleakest psalm in the entire book of Psalms.  Most lamentation psalms give us some reason for hope in God, but this one barely seems to give any hope at all in anything.  Why is it in the psalter?

My answer to that question is this: Psalm 88 points us to God as our only place to turn when we are in despair.  Think of it this way, if the psalmist [Ethan the Ezrahite] didn’t trust fully in God, why would he spend 18 verses pouring out his heart to him?  Yes, Ethan is in despair, but he is turning to the only One in whom he can confide.  Ethan doesn’t understand the situation, but he does understand that God is in control of it, despite appearances.

There is another aspect of this psalm that we don’t want to miss.  The Passion Translation points out that “This psalm has traditionally been used by Christians for reading on Good Friday. Many insights can be found here of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.”  Might this psalm also be looking forward prophetically to Good Friday, when all hope seems to have been lost, when darkness seems to have had free reign, when Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried?  What hope was there on Good Friday?…but Sunday was coming.

There is no rule of the psalms that says that every psalm must end in hope, or that no psalm should demonstrate despair.  This is the beauty of the Christian faith, wherever we are, and however we feel, we can pour out our hearts to God and be sure that he will be with us.  The Zondervan NIV Study Bible comments here: “The psalm thus exemplifies a believer’s proper response in the depths of despair, when sometimes all one can do is pour out one’s heart to God and simply wait.”

Sometimes just waiting in despair is enough.

Teach me more about you;
How you work and how you move,
So that I can walk onward in your truth,
Until everything within me brings honor to your name. (Psalms 86:11, Passion Translation)

“What is the chief end of man?” asks the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  David didn’t have the Shorter Catechism when he penned these words, but surely the authors of the catechism had these words in mind (or a similar statement) when they came up with the answer to the question.  The aim of David’s life was to bring honor to your name. He didn’t think it was good enough that a part of his life brought honor to God’s name, he would not rest until everything within me brings honor to your name.

In this sense David is our example.  The aim of our own lives should be no different than his.  How can I so live that people aren’t impressed with me and my life, but my manner of living points them to something far greater and far better?  David gives us the answer to that question.  We walk onward in your truth.  We live out what we find in the Scriptures and it is this very thing that turns our lives into sign posts pointing away from us and towards Jesus.

Spurgeon writes here: “To fear God is both the beginning, the growth, and the maturity of wisdom, therefore should we be undividedly given up to it, heart, and soul.”

Yes, the Lord keeps raining down blessing after blessing,
And prosperity will drench the land with a bountiful harvest. (Psalms 85:12, Passion Translation)

The Sons of Korah, the author(s?) of this psalm, understood this: that blessings come from the Lord and from no one and nothing else.  They speak with words of faith here because earlier in the psalm they are asking for God to revive his people (vs. 6), no they make the assumption by faith that blessings will come down because, well, because God is God of course and that is what he does.

If it’s true that the Lord keeps raining down blessing after blessing on us, it’s equally true that we are prone to miss about half or more of those blessings, and by miss I mean just assume they are part of our life and not give God glory or thanks for them.  Health, a warm home (yeah, Michigan…), family, books, peace, on and on it goes.  Sometimes we give thanks, many times we miss it in our focus on other things.  Fortunately, God is patient with us and overlooks our ungratefulness.

These words from the sons of Korah should stir us up to a renewed thanksgiving for blessing after blessing that God rains down on us.