Day 179: Psalms 132-138; The Great Hallel

Psalm 136 - The Great Hallel Photo Credit: hilldaleworship.blogspot.com

Psalm 136 – The Great Hallel
Photo Credit: hilldaleworship.blogspot.com

Today’s reading wraps up the Songs of Ascent and goes on to other psalms including Psalm 136 which is known as “The Great Hallel.”  This is a Psalm that would have been recited before the Passover meal in Hebrew culture.  I believe in many places they still do this today.  While I know that some of the names of the kings don’t necessarily mean anything to us in our current context, this psalm nonetheless tells the magnificent story of God’s action and how His love indeed endures forever.  Most of today’s post will be this Psalm, but I would encourage you to once again read it… and find your place in it.  There are surly things that don’t necessarily fit your life, but perhaps instead of striking down Og, king of Bashan, perhaps the Lord has helps you in your struggle with depression… or instead of bringing Israel out from Egypt, God has lead you through and out of a battle with addiction…  Maybe this psalm simply reminds you that God’s love and faithfulness are with us each and every day, even in the mundane details and seemingly endless amount of chores, laundry, and child rearing that you do faithfully day in and day out.

There are many ways that we too can find ourselves within the context of God’s story… what miraculous, or maybe not so miraculous yet still faithful things has God done in your life today?

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who alone does great wonders,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who by understanding made the Heavens,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who made the great lights,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and brought Israel out from among them,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and His host in the Red Sea,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who led His people through the wilderness,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who struck down great kings,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a Heritage,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
a Heritage to Israel His servant,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.

It is He who remembered us in our low estate,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
He who gives food to all flesh,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of Heaven,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.



Day 178: Psalms 120-131; The Songs of Ascent

Ascending to the Temple of God in Jerusalem Photo Credit: www.praisechoir.com

Ascending to the Temple of God in Jerusalem
Photo Credit: www.praisechoir.com

Today’s psalms are part of a collection of psalms known as the “Pilgrim Psalms,” or as the they say in their titles, “song of ascents.”  They are also sometimes called Gradual Psalms or Songs of Degrees.  Many scholars believe these psalms were sung by the worshipers as they ascended up the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals which are recorded in Deuteronomy 16:16.   They may have also been sung by the kohanim (aka. the Korahites), who were the Temple priests, as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Its also possible that these songs were sung by the captives as they returned from Babylon to Israel!

While information like that is nice to know, I think it pales in comparison to what we get from these psalms today.  These songs were indeed used for preparing the people and their leaders for worship.  If you think back to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the whole purpose of worship was to come before God and be made new and clean once again.  This happened through sacrifice and, if it never happened at any other times in a year, it did happen on these three dates: The Passover (aka. The Feast of Unleavened Bread), The Feast of Weeks, and The Feast of Tabernacles.  Each of these feasts come with their own appropriate code of conduct, but all of them have one thing in common, a corporate re-orientation of the lives of those in the Israelite community; a remembrance of who they are and where they came from.  We can see this very clearly in the lines of these psalms:

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me…”

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

“To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!”

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

The Psalms of Ascent: A Call to Prayer Photo credit: www.cccooperagency.wordpress.com

The Psalms of Ascent:
A Call to Prayer
Photo credit: www.cccooperagency.wordpress.com

These psalms, as is true with many of the other psalms, make me think a lot about my own orientation and that of the Church as well.  Do we come into church on any given Sunday expecting to encounter God?  Do we take time to prepare ourselves for worship?  Do we recognize who God is and who we are?  Do we feel like we even need God’s help?  Is this really the first time we have thought about God since last Sunday?  These are difficult questions to ask not because the answers are difficult to find, but because the truth of the answers is difficult to swallow.

Today’s psalms are short and quick to read.  They run the gambit of praise, thanksgiving, lament, hope, trust, and just about any emotion you can think of.  The page(s) that they are on are good to keep bookmarked or dogeared in your Bible and the psalms contained therein are good reminders of the right orientation for our lives.  Like a compass always pointing north, these Psalms (and the whole Bible really) point us directly in the direction of God… a reminder that I’m sure we need on a daily basis.



Day 177: Psalm 119; The "Great" Psalm

Today we come to the longest chapter of the Bible, the greatest psalm of the psalms, and what could arguably be called the best acrostic of all time: Psalm 119.  This psalm is considered a wisdom psalm, mostly because the wisdom psalms are really all encompassing.  There are elements of teaching, praise, thanksgiving, lament, petition, and history in this psalm, all wound together in an acrostic poem.  Sadly, this psalm is written anonymously so there is on one that we can credit it too… which I think might be the point really in that the focus is truly and completely on God in all of this.

Psalm 119:34

Psalm 119:34

As I read through this psalm I kind of envision the psalmist sitting out under a tree on a nice warm summer day thinking about all the ways that he/she has been blessed.  The writer was jotting down a bunch of things and started putting them in an acrostic poem and before you know it, psalm 119 was born.  Of course I cannot independently verify this but the acrostic style kind of reminds me of a child’s thanksgiving day project or something.  When I was young I could always remember the thanksgiving day children’s sermon; it was always the same.  We wrote the word ‘thanksgiving’ on a whiteboard and then we wrote down things that we were thankful for.  Other times I remember writing an acrostic poem that used all the letters of my name or something.  It is something that I remember doing occasionally as a child.

I wonder though how often I would do… or actually do in my early adult life though.  Do I take the time to thank God for all the things that He has given me?  Am I conscious of the many blessings that God has given me and do I praise Him for them?  Have I actually taken the time to do that in my life lately?  Sadly… I have to answer ‘no.’  I could blame time, busyness, work, school, or a myriad of other things as the reasons why I don’t spend time thinking and thanking about how abundantly blessed I am, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t happen on a regular basis if at all.

While my words here really wouldn’t do anything to improve this already great psalm, I think the challenge that has been uncovered is clear: We need to take time to be thankful and give God honor and praise for all the blessings that He has given us.  I challenge you, whoever and wherever you are to take time to do this and, in honor of Psalm 119, do it in an acrostic form.  Whether you use the letters of your name or the alphabet, take the time to name the blessings in your life and thank God for them.



Day 176: Psalms 116-118; The Egyptian Hallel

The three psalms that we are reading today are part of a 6 psalm unit known as “The Egyptian Hallel.”  A Hallel is considered to be a portion of a Jewish worship service that take place during their times of festivals.  It consists of psalms 113-118, which are spoken, prayed, or chanted aloud as a unit as part of the morning prayer service.  Typically, this would happen especially around the time of the Passover, when the people of God remember their time in bondage and the freedom that has been given to them by the power of God.  And this is really what these do, give honor and glory to God for His amazing work!

You really can’t just read the psalms from today without including psalms 113-115 as well.  They really are a unit, a single entity; they could be one long psalm.  In many ways, these psalms tell the story of God’s faithfulness, providence, and power when He remembered Israel and brought them out of the land of Egypt and freed them from the oppression that they had suffered for so many years.  I would encourage you to read through all 6 of these psalms together and take time to reflect on and remember the story of God’s amazing work in Exodus.

We know too that this story is not just something that happened in the past, but it is indeed the story of our lives as well.  You and I and every human on this earth have been born into the bondage of sin.  Yet God didn’t leave us there either just as He didn’t leave the Israelites in Egypt.  God sent His Son Jesus as a direct assault on sin, our abusive master, and freed us from it through His death on the cross.  We had been slaves… now we are free by the blood of Jesus!  This Egyptian Hallel is our song of praise as well!  Take time to read them… to reflect on them… and to find yourself in them.  Maybe they will give you the words to say to express your thanks and praise to God as well!

PSALM 116-118 are psalms of thanksgiving and praise to God for His work in the lives of His people.  These psalms were written anonymously, are clearly didactic in nature, and are actually part of a unit of psalms from 113-118.  Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible and the shortest psalm.  Psalm 118 is also a messianic psalm with prophetic overtones.



Day 175: Psalms 109-115; Great Are the Lord's Works!

I’ll admit that as I’m writing this, the news is on in the background, and I’m hearing about all sorts of things that are going on in Grand Rapids, in West Michigan, in America, and around the world.  The thing about the news that is too often true, is that it is the bad things that make the most news.  Just as I’m listening this evening, the headlines are about a person that got hit by a car, the coming trial of George Zimmerman, the continuing scandals in the U.S. government, and more on the situation in Syria.  I guess I just don’t understand why this is the news that we want to hear.  If one was to simply watch the news all day, or even once a day, I can’t imagine how cynical and depressed they would be, if that was the picture of the world that was given.

But as I contrast this primarily negative view of the world with what we read today in the Psalms, we really get different and sometimes opposing views of the world.  The news media would have us believe that things are going crazy in the world, the everything is out of control and that no one is safe ever.  Obviously, they are decidedly secular in their views; hence the endless stream of bad news.  Yet the Psalms that we read today and have been reading for the past several days communicate to us a wholly different worldview, one in which God is in control and is working towards the restoration of the world.

It can be very depressing to listen to the news, to look out into the world, to see the brokenness that is around us.  Even Jesus knew this as He was talking to His disciples on the night before He was to be crucified.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

The next time you hear something from the news about all of the bad that is going on, remember that we believe that God has been working and will continue to work to bring restoration to the world.  And we can know this because of what we have seen Him do in the past… which is recounted for us in Psalm 111!

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant forever.
    Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever!

PSALM 109 is a prayer of lament written by David.  This psalm has many imprecatory qualities, as David talks about evil men and his enemies, but there is a clear turn towards hope, praise, and thanksgiving about halfway through the psalm.

PSALM 110 is a royal psalm written by David that is both prophetic and Messianic in nature.  This Psalm is quoted in Hebrews 5-7 as the writer portrays Jesus as the “great high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

PSALM 111 is a song of praise and thanksgiving that was written anonymously.  This psalm is also didactic in nature.

PSALM 112 is a wisdom psalm that was also written anonymously.  This psalm too is didactic and is also intercessional in nature.

PSALM 113 is a song of praise that was written anonymously.  This psalm is an Egyptian Hallel, a song sung during Passover season.

PSALM 114 is also a song of praise that was written anonymously.  This psalm is also an Egyptian Hallel, a song sung during Passover season.

PSALM 115 is a song of praise that also was written anonymously.  This psalm too is an Egyptian Hallel, a song sung during Passover season.



Day 174: Psalms 106-108; Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is good…

As we move into book 5 of the Psalms, we really get into some of the well known praise psalms.  These psalms have inspired a great many songs throughout even more generations since they were first written!  While we often put the greatest emphasis on the reading of the Word of God, and I wouldn’t deny the importance of this, it seems also important for us to sing the Word of God.  Songs and music touch us in ways that are much different and often times much deeper than a lecture or sermon.  Music, melody, and lyrics stick with us and its so great to have the Word of God in our heads each and every day!  If this happens in the form of song, then fantastic!  These songs, from a variety of different backgrounds and generations, are all inspired by different parts of Psalm 106-108… I hope that they can speak to you today!

PSALM 106-108 are psalms of praise and thanksgiving for God’s great works, steadfast love, and abounding grace.  Each is very didactic in nature as they describe the many reasons for offering praise and thanksgiving to God  Psalm 106 and 107 are written anonymously while psalm 108 is attributed to King David and is considered by some to be a psalm of ascent.



Day 173: Psalms 103-105; How Great is Our God

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

These are fitting words for the psalms that we read through today!  All three are psalms of praise that tell of the many acts and words of the Lord and all three proclaim His glory and splendor!  I don’t honestly think that there is a lot to be added to these Psalms… I think that they are best re-read over and over.  I would encourage you to do that today!  Take time to read these Psalms at least two more times.  As you do this, take time to think back over the past 6 months… over all that we have read and encountered in the Scriptures.  Do you remember the times that the psalmist is talking about?  Take some more time to think about the things in your life… how have you seen God at work in your day to day walk?

PSALM 103-105 are psalms of praise and thanksgiving that are written anonymously.  Each is didactic in nature, with psalm 105 actually being more of a historical account of God’s amazing works in redemptive history.  Though all three reference times past, they can also draw our attention to God’s work in the present and in our own lives as well.



Day 172: Psalms 96-102; The Lord is King

There are a lot of bad things that are going on in the world today.  We hear about something new everyday it seems.  Whether it is our government that is doing something that the people do not seem to like, or another government oppressing its people, it appears as though many of the leaders of the world seem to have fallen victim to corruption.  Then there are the wars and uprisings that are happening all over the place; religious groups killing each other in the name of God or Allah or some other deity that they worship saying that it is “part of their religion,” even though it clearly isn’t.  Add to this the seemingly endless stream of natural disasters that kill thousands  of people every year and all the talk of how we are polluting the planet and causing this that and the other thing.

Natural Disasters Photo Credit: www.harunyahya.com ***Please Note: I do not endorse this website, but simply give credit for the picture***

Natural Disasters
Photo Credit: www.harunyahya.com
***Please Note: I do not endorse this website, but simply give credit for the picture***

The news is full of horrific stories of violence and people using the bad things to push their political agendas.  Poverty, hunger, oppression, and a myriad of other things are still major social issues with people that are stuck in a system that seems to be designed to keep them stuck right where they are.  All this and more is more than enough to dishearten any of us into thinking that the whole world is ‘going to hell in a hand basket‘ and God doesn’t seem to give two hoots about it.  Yet the Psalms that we encounter today very clearly challenge that disheartened assumption:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the earth…
The Lord reigns, let the peoples rejoice…
Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things…
The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!

These are the first lines of Psalms 96-99, all psalms of the Lord’s Kingship.  These are known as the enthronement psalms and speak very clearly of God’s sovereign rule and affirms His position as a powerful Creator and sovereign Lord.  It may seem as though everything is circling the drain, but Scripture is very clear that God is in control.  Sometimes I think that this is a cop-out answer to any problem that people are facing, or rather clearly not facing in their own lives; a way of saying “I don’t have to deal with this because God will take care of it.”  While I don’t necessarily agree that hiding behind the fact that God is truly on the throne always and is truly reigning over us is an excuse for inaction, I do believe that it offers us a level of comfort in understanding that there is a higher power at work in the world, often in ways that we cannot necessarily see or understand.

God upholds the world in His hands!

God upholds the world in His hands!

We have talked about this before; it is a conversation that goes all the way back to Adam and Noah.  God created the world and He is intimately involved in all that goes on in it.  God’s covenant with Noah tells us that God is always and forever sustaining the world and upholding it and all that is in it.  We have not been left to fend for ourselves!  Indeed there is nothing that goes on in the world that doesn’t happen because God allows it to happen… even the bad stuff.  While we are certainly allowed free will to decide, and God sustains our lives even in our sinful actions, He doesn’t applaud them or their results.  However, if God didn’t sustain us we would simply cease to exist.

But we believe that God is more than just involved in sustaining the world and making sure things continue to run, we believe that God is working out His will for creation! He is working to bring it back from its fallen state, to bring it back to the perfection that it was created for.  God is working towards restoration and no evil action or natural disaster can stop this!  We may not always see it and we certainly don’t always feel it, but God is always there working His will and some day we will see the end result of God’s work: the full and complete restoration of the world!!  Amen!  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!

PSALM 96-99 are Enthronement Psalms that are written anonymously.  These psalms are also psalms of praise and thanksgiving that are Messianic in nature and have prophetic overtones to them as well.

PSALM 100 is a rather well know song of praise and thanksgiving that is written anonymously.  This psalm was very popular for my family around thanksgiving time.

PSALM 101 is a Royal Psalm that is written by King David that is also didactic in nature.

PSALM 102 is a penitential psalm of lament that is also written by King David.  There is a very clear thread of hope and trust that shows up in the middle of this psalm, even though it seems to end on a bit of a low note.



Day 171: Psalms 90-95; The Psalm of Moses

Today begins book 4 of the Psalms, of which most of the psalms are written anonymously.  The first psalm in this book, however, is the only psalm in the book of Psalms that is attributed to Moses.  It is considered to be the lament of Moses, likely made while the people of Israel were camped at Mount Sinai or while they were wondering in the wilderness.  As I read it, I certainly get the feeling that there is something that is not going right and Moses is crying out to God in a very humbling way.  This Psalm, for all intents and purposes, really puts God and creation right in their places.  Moses magnifies the greatness of God and attests to the weakness and frailty of humanity.  In it, he is teaching the reader/hearer of God’s might and power while comparing it to the meager position that creation holds before Him.  Interestingly, this is not the only song that Moses writes that is recorded in the Bible and his other major song, though a song of praise and thanksgiving, is not at all unlike Psalm 90 either.  I refer to the song that Moses sings after the people of Israel cross the Red Sea.  Let me encourage you to read this song as it is recorded in Exodus 15, and compare it to Psalm 90.  Do you see any similarities?  Differences?  What do you think this says about Moses?

Moses Parts the Red Sea Photo Credit: www.rapgenius.com

Moses Parts the Red Sea
Photo Credit: www.rapgenius.com

I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

PSALM 90 is a psalm of lament that was written by Moses. As is clear with Moses’ style of writing when it comes to songs, this psalm is didactic in nature and teaches about the greatness of God over and above all of creation.

PSALM 91 is a confession of trust that was written anonymously. This psalm is also didactic and weaves in a a clear thread of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness, strength and protection.  Interestingly, Psalm 91:11 is the Scripture that Satan quotes when he is testing Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

PSALM 92 is a song of praise that was also written anonymously. This psalm too is clearly didactic in nature, singing of the great works of God and how good it is to praise Him for what He has done.  The title given this psalm is “A song for the Sabbath.”  I wonder how many of us truly feel this way on Sunday morning when we come to church… I know I struggle with it often…

PSALM 93 is also a song of praise, one that is also known as a song of the Lord’s Kingship, and was written anonymously. A Song of the Lord’s Kingship is also known as an enthronement psalm, written to describe God’s sovereign rule and affirm His position as a powerful Creator and sovereign Lord.  Along with this, psalm 93 is also a song of praise and has many messianic overtones. 

PSALM 94 is a prayer of lament that was also written anonymously. Like many of the lamenting psalms, this too is didactic in nature with some imprecatory qualities as well.  There is a clear turn towards hope and trust at the end as well, making this Psalm almost Davidic in nature, even though the writer is anonymous.

PSALM 95 is a song of praise that too was written anonymously.  It is short and sweet, but has inspired some contemporary worship songs!



Day 170: Psalms 85-89; The Name of the Lord

The Lord Passes before Moses Photo Credit: www.bibleinbits.com/

The Lord Passes before Moses
Photo Credit: www.bibleinbits.com

As we move further and further into the Psalms, I think that the tendency is just to brush over them and not really read them.  I mean, as far as chapters go this is by far the longest book in the Bible and we tend to start thinking that all of these Psalms are the same in one way or another.  Of course it is true that many of the Psalms use the same phrases, talk about the same things, and ultimately declare the same messages, but each one is special in its own way.  Each are individual models of how to praise, lament, thank, petition, and ultimately worship God.  Today we read through Psalm 86, which in verse 15 brings us back all the way to the book of Exodus using the name that the Lord gave Himself and proclaimed when He passed by Moses:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Why is this a big deal?  Because it is the name of God.  Moreover, it is really the best description of who God is and how God acts both then and now.  The words “gracious” and “merciful” are coupled with the name of God 12 times in the Old Testament, all of which show them to be some of the primary attributes of God.  I wonder if that is how we always think of God though, as one who is first and foremost gracious and merciful, and also slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  I wonder if this is how the world see God… or if this is how Christians are actually proclaiming God…

While I wouldn’t pretend to claim that I know how all Christians preach about and describe God to the people that they meet every day, I think I can make a pretty educated guess as to what is being said based on the prevailing opinion of culture.  Do people see God as a deity who is abounding in steadfast love or one that is slow to anger?  I doubt it.  Why?  Take one look at the prevailing opinions on God right now or at the “gospel” that is being preached by many churches:  Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism – ‘live a good life and be nice to people and God will give you nice things, and He might even help you occasionally when you get in to trouble.’

The Psalms & God A Call to Prayer Photo credit: www.cccooperagency.wordpress.com

The Psalms & God
A Call to Prayer
Photo credit: www.cccooperagency.wordpress.com

I don’t know about you, but to be honest, this is not at all the God of the Bible.  It certainly isn’t how God describes Himself either.  Time and time again we see God intimately involved in the lives of His creatures, sustaining and upholding all of creation.  We say that God is love, but also that He is very distant (deism)… these things seem to stand in conflict with each other.  How can you love someone and yet be ever distant and uncaring?

No… the deistic god is not the God of the Bible.  We worship and serve a God that is intimately involved and interested in our lives.  God loves us so much that, because of His overwhelming grace and mercy, He sent His Son to die for us which is the ultimate expression of love.  When we sin, He doesn’t turn away from us, but has compassion on us and welcomes us back with open arms.  God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

PSALM 85 is a psalm of lament written by the Korahites. This psalm is also interwoven with a breath of thanksgiving that walks the path of asking God for restoration and thanking Him for His actions.

PSALM 86 is a psalm of lament written by David.  Unlike most of David’s laments, this psalm has a section of hope and trust that is pasted right in the middle of the two sections of lament making this psalm end on a rather low note.

PSALM 87 is a psalm of praise written by the Korahites. This psalm is also prophetic in nature and stands as one of the psalms of Ascent that people would sing as they made their way up to Jerusalem and to the Temple for worship.

PSALM 88 is a psalm of lament that is attributed to both the Korahites and to Heman the Ezrahite.  This is probably the darkest of all the lament psalms as it seems to have no hope.  The writer does not make a turn towards trust or hope but truly feels as though the Lord has abandoned him which is interesting coming from a man named ‘Heman’ which in Hebrew means ‘faithful.’  This is the only psalm attributed to Heman.

PSALM 89 is a royal psalm written by Ethan the Ezrahite. This is the only psalm that is attributed to Ethan and proclaims the greatness and reign of God over all of creation.  Interestingly this psalm also takes a turn towards lament at the end, asking the same God that is exalted above creation to reveal Himself to the writer in the time of trouble.



Day 169: Psalms 79-84; Deeply Longing

I really love Psalm 84.  It talks very deeply of the longing of the psalmist to be in the presence of the Lord.  This isn’t just about spending a minute or two in prayer, but a deep longing to dwell in God’s presence.  The Psalmist seems to understand what it means to be in God’s presence, to know the peace of God and to bask in His glory.  He even goes on to say that he would rather be a doorkeeper in God’s house, a lowly servant working by opening and closing the door, than to dwell in places elsewhere.  The words of the Psalm are just beautiful.  I think today, in lue of anything else to say, I’ll just let the Psalm speak for itself.

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! Selah

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed!

For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you!

PSALM 79 is a psalm of lament written by Asaph.  This psalm is also an imprecatory psalm as we can see the psalmist petitioning the Lord for His justice.  Like most lament psalms, this psalm ends on a note of hope and trust.

PSALM 80 is also a psalm of lament written by Asaph.  In this psalm we see the psalmist crying out for restoration.  While there is no specific hopeful tone that we see at the end, the whole psalm is a testament to the trust that the writer has in God to restore them.

PSALM 81 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving written by Asaph.  This is an interesting praise song in that it talks about the poor decisions of God’s people.  However, it does proclaim God’s mighty works and tell the story of God’s providence making it a didactic psalm as well.

PSALM 82 is a prayer of lament written by Asaph as well.  Asaph’s writing here is also didactic in nature and makes the turn towards trust in the very last line of the psalm, proclaiming God’s rule over the world.

PSALM 83 also a prayer of lament that is written by Asaph.  This psalm, however, is much more imprecatory and seems to be aimed directly at the psalmist’s enemies.  The turn towards hope and trust in this lament can be seen in the writer’s trust in God’s work and justice.

PSALM 84 is a psalm of praise that is written by the Korahites.  This is a Psalm of ascent which lends its self to being naturally didactic in nature as well.  This would have been a psalm that people would have sang as they made their way up to Jerusalem and up to the temple as well… like a good song on the way to church!



Day 168: Psalms 76-78; True Wisdom

Psalm 78, though long, it one of the truest examples of a good wisdom psalm that can be found in the whole book of the psalms.  You may be wondering why  that is because it seems to have a great deal of information about the story of the people of Israel and their relationship with God, but quips or advice about living a good life.  To that I say: EXACTLY!  Even though Psalm 78 spends a great deal of time walking through the many sins and rebellions of Israel, what is important is the works of the Lord through this time because this is how God reveals Himself to the people of Israel, and therefore the world as a whole.  It is through God’s works and revelation that we see God revealed to us, which is how we come to know God as God in our lives as well.  It is not simply about our own experience, but about how our experiences match up with what we already know about God as it is revealed in the Bible.  This is what true wisdom is…

The Way of Wisdom in the World Photo Credit: www.pastorkylehuber.com

The Way of Wisdom in the World
Photo Credit: www.pastorkylehuber.com

We need to clear that space… reclaim that word.  People that are thought of as wise now days are the ones who have all the right answers for the sticky little situations that come up in life.  People with street smarts, who know what to say and when to say it.  We see these people as being wise.  Sometimes its the good listeners too.  Perhaps we consider Dr. Phil to be wise because he seems to know things and be able to fix things.  Culture has really taken this word and twisted it around.  Not that any of those things or people are at all bad.  Its good to be street smart and its nice to have a friend with some answers, but true wisdom lies elsewhere.  True wisdom lies in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  Proverbs 9:10

Wisdom is found in the revelation of God, in knowing who God is and being open to His word.  In this we fear God, not fearing in the same way that some people are afraid of spiders or snakes, but in the way that we stand in awe of both God’s greatness and His overwhelming grace and mercy.  For us to find this in our lives we must be open to the giver of all true wisdom: The Spirit.  Isaiah talks about this Spirit as it pertains to Jesus Christ in Isaiah chapter 11.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

The Wisdom of God Photo Credit: www.insidetheshrink-dailygrace.blogspot.com

The Wisdom of God
Photo Credit: www.insidetheshrink-dailygrace.blogspot.com

It is this same Spirit that is inside of us, guiding us and revealing God to us through the Scriptures.  The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, calls us to repentance, guides us on our daily walk, and helps us to understand God better in His Word and in our life.  This is why our Psalm today is such a great wisdom Psalm.  It talks through God’s actions throughout redemptive history and how God has acted.  We see an image of God created for us in Psalm 78, how he deals with the people in the good times and the bad.  In reading this we gain knowledge and insight into the truth of who God really is and the more we know the more we will stand in aw and fear of Him, a fear of the Lord which is the beginning of true wisdom.

More to come on wisdom when we get to proverbs in July!

PSALM 76 is a song of praise and thanksgiving that is written by Asaph. This Psalm is also a Psalm of Ascent, a song that was likely sung as Hebrews made their way up to Jerusalem and to the Temple to worship.

PSALM 77 is a prayer of lament that is written by Asaph.  Like most of the lament Psalms, there is a section of praise and hope that goes with the lament.  I like to think that these Psalms are also didactic in nature as they teach about lament and about the greatness of God as the psalmist places their trust in Him for all the reasons that they tend to give.

PSALM 78 is a wisdom psalm written by Asaph. This Psalm is also considered a history or historical Psalm, which therefore makes it didactic in nature.  I don’t think it is too difficult to see why this Psalm would be considered historical as it walks very thuroughly through the history of the people of Israel, what we consider to be redemptive history.



Day 167: Psalms 72-75; The books of the Psalms

So as you can see today, at least in the reading of the ESV Bible, that we are transitioning from book 2 of the Psalm to book 3.  I think that this is a good time to mention something about the different books and what they mean.  The division of the psalms is very reminiscent of the division of the 5 books of the Pentateuch.  While the Psalms themselves do not necessarily correlate to the themes of the books of the Pentateuch (aka. book 1 of the Psalms isn’t like Genesis in the Pentateuch) their divisions are traditionally seen as holding that symbolism.  Each of the books contain their own benediction, or parting blessing, at the end of them.  We can see this today at the end of psalm 72:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

Each of the books also has some of its own characteristics as well.  We don’t necessarily see these in the English translations, but the when read in the original Hebrew that they were written in, the distinctions are very noticeable.  He is a break down of some of the differences:

  1. The first book comprises the first 41 Psalms. All of these are ascribed to David except Psalms 1, 2, 10, and 33, which, though untitled in the Hebrew, were also traditionally ascribed to David. While Davidic authorship cannot be confirmed, this probably is the oldest section of the Psalms.  These Psalms also use the word “Yahweh” or “YHWH” when God is referenced in them.  This would have been spoken as “Adonai” as the Hebrew people believe that the name of God is too Holy to be spoken by humans.
  2. The second book consists of the next 31 Psalms (42–72). Eighteen of these are ascribed to David. Psalm 72 begins “For Solomon”, but is traditionally understood as being written by David as a prayer for his son. The rest are anonymous, but are often attributed to the Korahites.  In this section of  the Psalms, the word “Elohim” is used to reference God.  This word in Hebrew is actually the word for “God” but is also used to reference other gods as well.  It is a more general word used to reference deity.
  3. The third book contains seventeen Psalms (73–89), of which Psalm 86 is ascribed to David, Psalm 88 to Heman the Ezrahite, and Psalm 89 to Ethan the Ezrahite.  The rest of the Psalms in this section are attributed to Asaph or the Korahites.
  4. The fourth book also contains seventeen Psalms (90–106), of which Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, and Psalms 101 and 103 to David.  The rest of this book is comprised of Psalms written anonymously.
  5. The fifth book contains the remaining 44 Psalms. Of these, 15 are ascribed to David, one (Psalm 127) as a charge to Solomon.  The rest are anonymously written including Psalms 146-150 which both serve as a doxology for book 5 and is also the doxology for the whole of the Psalms.

PSALM 72 is a Royal Psalm that is traditionally thought to be written by Solomon, but could also have been written by David as a charge to Solomon.  Psalm 72 is also considered to be a Messianic and Prophetic Psalm as well.  The end of this Psalm is also the Doxology of book 2.

PSALM 73 is a Wisdom Psalm that is written by Asaph.  Psalm 73 is also didactic in nature, as most wisdom psalms tend to be.  It talks about being with God, walking with God, learning the ways of God, and following God as He leads us.

PSALM 74 is a Psalm of lament that is written by Asaph.  This Psalm also contains elements of hope in them, but it not imprecatory or didactic like many of the other psalms that are classified as lament.

PSALM 75 is a psalm of thanksgiving that is written by Asaph.  This psalm talks about the equality with which God judges and really declares how God truly is the measure for justice in the world, which I think makes it a didactic psalm as well.

This brings us to the half way point of the Psalms!



Day 166: Psalms 68-71; Psalm of the 'Forsaken'

Psalm 71 begins with a familiar cadence: “In You, O Lord, do I take refuge…”  These words are found within many of the psalms that we have read and will continue to read throughout the rest of this month.  Yet the common nature of these words does not necessarily reveal a person simply addressing God in the same way we begin our prayers with “dear Lord…”  These are the words of someone crying out from the depths.  These are the words of one coming to God in a time of desperate need.  These are the words of one who has come to the end of him or herself; who cannot run or fight any longer.

Montana Thunderstorm Photo Credit: www.mostexcitingworld.com

Montana Thunderstorm
Photo Credit: www.mostexcitingworld.com

We all come to this point at different times in our lives, but the fact of the matter is that one does not seek refuge from a beautiful sunny day, one does not even seek refuge from a summer breeze or a light shower, we seek refuge from the storm when they are raging all around us.  As we read through this Psalm we see that the writer has been fighting to stand, trying with whatever strength he or she has to stand up in the raging winds and driving rain of life.  Yet no matter how strong one is at their best… there is a point at which that strength is going to fail… where we will indeed fail.

This psalm, like many of the others that we have read over the past several days, gives us a model not only for what to do in these situations, but also what we can say in these situations.  Like the prayers of lament that we seem to continually look at, the difficult times in our lives when the storms seem to rage out of control can be difficult times to even find the words to say, much less pray.  However the psalmist here is openly turning to God in this time for refuge and deliverance.  We don’t necessarily know how long it took the writer to get to this point.  I know in my life, when things get bad like this I tend to get more and more stubborn until I have nowhere else to turn and no strength left.  Yet even in times like this, the words don’t change.

Tornado Shelter Photo Credit: www.fiberglasscreations.com

Tornado Shelter
Photo Credit: www.fiberglasscreations.com

Perhaps they are a little more humbling to say.

Perhaps our pride takes a little more of a hit.

Perhaps we even feel stupid for waiting as long as we did.

However God will receive us the same, no matter what state we come to Him in.  He is indeed our refuge and strength… our ever present help in times of trouble.

PSALM 68 is a song of praise and thanksgiving written by David.  This psalm is also Messianic and therefore Prophetic in nature.

PSALM 69 is a song of praise written by David.  There is an interesting juxtaposition of praise and lament in this psalm.  At first glance, it is a lament of something going on with David, however it turns sharply in the middle toward a song of praise.  This psalm is also Messianic and thus is prophetic in nature.  Psalm 69:9 is the reference for the statement in John 2, when Jesus is clearing the Temple courts, “zeal for your house has consumed me.”

PSALM 70 is a prayer of lament written by David.  This Psalm is actually a repeat of psalm 40:13-17.  Like psalm 40, this psalm also has an imprecatory quality.

PSALM 71 is a prayer of lament that was written anonymously.  There are some imprecatory statements in this psalm as well as some elements of praise and hope that come towards the end of this psalm as the psalmists attests to trusting in God no matter what.



Day 165: Psalms 61-67; Trusting in God

Psalm 63:1 ...In a dry and weary land... Photo Credit: www.hisholyhill.blogspot.com

Psalm 63:1
…In a dry and weary land…
Photo Credit: www.hisholyhill.blogspot.com

To be honest, talking about a Psalm of trust like psalm 63 really would come best by just repeating what David writes.  So today, I’m going to say very little except to encourage you to read Psalm 63 again… and again.  Take time to picture the imagery that he uses, to feel the feelings he feels, and to let David’s words of trust in God work themselves into your hearts and minds.  Have you ever found yourself in a place in life where it seems like you are so lost, so incredibly in need of Him that you find yourself thirsting for more of God.  It is in this time that David writes psalm 63, and 62 as well, turning to God once again and giving us the model for faith and trust in our lives, just has he did yesterday for lament as well.  So again, read these words and let them sink into your hearts.  May they become the words of your heart when you find yourself in the wilderness as life.

Psalm 63

My Soul Thirsts for You

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

PSALM 61 is a psalm of lament written by David.  Like all of David’s lamenting psalms, there is an element of hope and trust that can be clearly seen here.

PSALM 62 is a confession of trust that is written by David.  There is also an element of lament that can be noted in here it as well.

PSALM 63 is also a confession of trust with an element of lament that is written by David.  Psalm 63 was written while David was in the wilderness of Judah, which was likely during the time that he was being pursued by Saul which is recorded in the latter portion of 1 Samuel.

PSALM 64 is a psalm of lament written by David.  The part of this psalm that usually ends in hope and trust in other lament psalms actually includes a description of how God will act on David’s behalf.  It is an interesting twist to the norm but is said in a way that, even though it might not have physically happened, it is said as though it is so sure to happen that it is as if it is already in the past.

PSALM 65 is a song of praise and thanksgiving that clearly has a didactic quality to it as well.  This Psalm is written by David and clearly tells how David feels about God and describes the many works of God throughout history.

PSALM 66 is a song of praise and thanksgiving that is written anonymously.  Reading this psalm, we can see how beautifully the writer interweaves the call to offer praise and thanksgiving and also tells of the praise and thanksgiving that he/she is giving and has given God.  Even though the author talks about him/herself, the subject of this psalm is still very clearly about God.

PSALM 67  is a song of praise that can also serve as a prayer of intercession.  This psalm was also written anonymously.