Archives for posts with tag: Psalms

The past two days, I’ve been reading listening through the rest of the book of Psalms finishing up the psalms that are not given any historical setting.  We do not know when these psalms were written.  I have a few takeaways as I look back on the book of Psalms:

  • The various psalms are Yahweh-saturated.  Israel had judges; they had kings; they had prophets and priests, but never do they write a psalm about any of those guys.  The psalmists were focused on one thing and one thing only:  Yahweh, God of Israel.
  • Yahweh was different from all of the gods that surrounded the nation of Israel. If you know the history of the cultures that surrounded Israel, indeed if you know the history of the Ancient Near East, indeed if you know world history, Yahweh is different from all of the so-called gods from Ancient Greece and Rome to the Philistines to the Moabites, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Edomites, Egyptians, etc. Other so-called gods had to be appeased, not delighted in.  Yes, people were committed to those gods, but it was not a devotion of joy and delight, but a devotion that was based on fear and appeasement.  Everything was designed to placate the gods so that they wouldn’t become angry.  Contrast that attitude with the worship of Yahweh, God of Israel:
    • If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.” (Psalm 119:92, NLT)
    • Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight.” (Psalm 119:111, NLT)
    • Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1, NLT)

      We could go on, but you get the point.

  • The Psalms are Unique. I can’t think of any other body of literature, either in the Bible or out of the Bible, which is so relentlessly focused on God, so free to either praise God, or lament to God about a difficult situation. There is no body of writing that demonstrates such certainty that God exists, that he is personal and cares about the individual, that he governs the affairs of mankind and is responsive to anyone who calls upon his name.  The book of Psalms never ceases to amaze me, never ceases to stir up my devotion to God, my desire for God, and my delight in God.
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Days 19 and 20 of my 90 day (or less) trip through the NLT Chronological Bible were mainly in the book of Psalms.  One of the things that occurred to me as I listened through these psalms in chronological order (as near as scholars can get), was the outpouring of psalms and wisdom during the lives of David and Solomon.  David wrote much of the book of Psalms (74 of the 150 are attributed to him). I have a screenshot of all of the Psalms [taken from Logos Bible Software] grouped by genre and the psalms attributed to David are highlighted among the different colors.  As you can see, David wrote a lot of psalms of lament, which, given the fact that Saul was repeatedly trying to kill him makes a lot of sense.

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Heman the Ezrahite and Asaph, who were contemporaries of David,  also wrote some of the psalms.  When you add the writings of Solomon (much of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), you can see how much of the wisdom literature of the Hebrews flowed out of just a short period of time in the grand scheme of Israel’s history.  Why God did it this way, the Scriptures do not tell us, but I find it interesting that he did.

The other interesting thing about the different psalms is that the largest number of them are laments–people pouring out their hearts to God with a topic of sorrow and pain or difficulty, and the second largest genre is praise.  It’s kind of cool that we can both pour out our hearts in anguish and also praise our God, and God is fine with both.

Let the entire universe erupt with praise to God.
From nothing to something he spoke, and created it all. (Psalms 148:5, Passion Translation)

Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year, the universe does what the psalmist calls it to do: Let the entire universe erupt with praise to God. We hear it in the rising of the sun each day (even in cloudy Michigan); we hear it each evening as the sunset paints the sky with purples, oranges, greys, and blacks; we hear it as we pass by the ungainly Sandhill Cranes that spend 9 months of every year foraging in and around our farm fields; we can’t help but catch our breath in wonder when we hear it in the whites and greens and reds of the aurora borealis, in the matchless wonder of the southern cross constellation, in the return of spring, in the rain that falls, and in the sum total of all creation everywhere.  They have one duty and they do it oh-so-well; they praise their creator in an eruption of praise that cannot be missed except by willful choice.  From nothing to something he spoke, and created it all!

Spurgeon writes here: “Those who were created by command are under command to adore their Creator. The voice which said “Let them be”, now saith “Let them praise.”

Amen and Amen.

He heals the wounds of every shattered heart. (Psalms 147:3, Passion Translation)

There is a lot packed into a few words here.  First, there is the acknowledgement that there are “shattered hearts” among us.  The Christian faith jumps down into the gritty alley of life right along with us and engages us at a realistic level.  It does not seek to minimize or deny our reality.

Second, the Lord knows which hearts are shattered and why the need mending and how they need mending.  There is no hurt that goes unnoticed by Our Lord, no one who is overlooked because he is too busy, no lost sheep whom he forgets about.

Third, the Lord enters into the brokenness of the world with us.  This is significant.  He not only knows and cares about us, but God the Son entered into the brokenness and was here with us, understands the difficulties we face, and has great compassion for us.

Finally, the Lord heals our wounds.  He doesn’t just know about shattered hearts, he works to heal the wounds.  I love how the prophet Isaiah put this truth:

He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.” (Isaiah 40:11, HCSB)

 

 

Weak and feeble ones, you will sustain.
Those bent over with burdens of shame, you will lift up. (Psalms 145:14, Passion Translation)

One of the beautiful things about the Christian faith (and one of the reason I think it is true) is the way that it handles shame.  That all of us carry burdens of shame due to past sins, current attitudes, feuds we have with others, poor choices that we have made, or even sinful choices that others have made that have affected us, is indisputable as the rising of the sun.  Shame is there, but how can we deal with it?  How can we be rid of these burdens of shame that weigh us down?

Mankind tries various ways to handle shame.  We try to ignore it, which neither works, nor relieves us of the shame.  We try to anesthetize it with drugs, alcohol, and various other stimulants or depressants, this works temporarily, but does not take away the shame and indeed leaves us worse off than before.  We can take the Buddhist approach and deny the shame, which has the advantage of helping us cope, but of course the shame is not taken away, we’ve just managed to convince ourselves that it isn’t there, or at least isn’t going to affect us.  Atheism is of little use, because it has nothing to deal with shame and we are left limping along with our burden, unable to either rid ourselves of it, or convince ourselves that it isn’t important.

The elegance of the Christian faith is that it doesn’t deny our shame, indeed it rather painfully points it out.  However, we are not left alone to wallow in miserable shame.  We come to the cross and Jesus nails it there, where it is paid for in full, where he takes it on himself, and we are free.  Shame is real.  Shame is painful.  Jesus came to deal with shame and free us from slavery to it, or as Paul points out:

He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Col 2.13b-14) .

Shame?  Nailed to the cross.  Sins?  Forgiven. Debt? Paid for.  Result? Freedom.

Like I said, elegant.

Let the dawning day bring me revelation
Of your tender, unfailing love.
Give me light for my path, and teach me, for I trust in you! (Psalms 143:8, Passion Translation)

In a world lit only by fire, which was the only world that David knew, the break of dawn was especially memorable.  Here David uses the dawning day as a metaphor for the hesed of God, the covenantal love that God brings for and for his people, which the Passion Translation calls your tender, unfailing love. Without any help from mankind, the sun returns day after day after day, and without any work from God’s people, God’s unfailing love is present everywhere that his people are present and at all times, in all seasons, for every occasion.

Daybreak brings light to a dark world, and so David uses the same metaphor to ask God to light up his steps, to direct his paths, to guide his ways, because David is all in with God; he trusts in God and in God alone.

If we are to follow in the footsteps of David, the coming of the morning should stir up our hearts to think anew about God’s faithful, ever-present love for his people, and the rising sun should call us to fresh, new trust for that day.

Let my prayer be as the evening sacrifice
That burns like fragrant incense,
Rising as my offering to you
As I lift up my hands in surrendered worship! (Psalms 141:2, Passion Translation)

The words surrendered worship aren’t in the text of Ps. 141.2; however, I believe the author of the Passion Translation would argue that they are implied in the text, and rightly so.  David raises his hands as an offering of praise to God and praise and worship of God must be surrendered praise and worship.  One can hardly claim that worship is worship if it isn’t surrendered worship.  When one praises God, one lifts him up as worthy of praise and by implication that there is no one and nothing higher than him to praise.  Praise of God also implies that we are lower than God and do not deserve the praise ourselves.  This is surrendered worship.

Prayer also expresses dependence because we are making needs known to God in prayer, we are acknowledging that he is the God who hears and answers when we pray, and we ourselves cannot bring about what we are praying for.  Dependence implies surrender.  Dependence upon God is surrendered worship of God.

May our prayers go forth to God in humble dependence and surrendered worship.