Day 164: Psalms 55-60; More on Praying, Lamenting, and Justice

Today’s reading is all about praying prayers of lament.  Each and every one of these Psalms is lamenting something, and though they were likely songs as well, these are definitely prayers to God about things that were going on in David’s life.  What strikes me about these prayers is the diversity of things that David is bringing to the Lord and the diversity of situations that these psalms encompass.  Its no secret that David was in trouble a lot during the first part of his life, but what seems to also be a constant for him is the fact that in all things he goes to God for help.

Prayer Requests

Prayer Requests

I find this interesting and striking not because I don’t go to God with some my problems, nor that I think God is unable to handle my problems, but mostly because I don’t know that I often practice what I believe when it comes to going to God and trusting in God through all the things of life.  If we look at these psalms and place them alongside all of the other songs and prayers of lament that are written in the psalms, we see very quickly that when it comes to having a problem in life, the model for us is to go directly to God with it.  What we see is a humble, trusting, hope filled servant of God living his life openly and transparently before God.  David in particular is quick to praise, quick to thank, and quick to bring his laments before God.  What we do not see is a whiny complainer than just comes to God if and when he has a problem.

As we talked about a couple days ago, this is often how we view God; a sort of cosmic vending machine if you will.  We insert our prayers and out pops divine help.  While I can’t say that this particular form of prayer won’t elicit help from God almighty, I do know that God desires more from us than simply asking for His help when we have a problem that we can’t solve on our own.  God desires a relationship with us; one that is open and honest through the roller coaster of life’s emotions.  As we have seen in this model that is set forth by David’s own life, the man that is described ans being “after God’s own heart.”  Again, He is quick to praise, quick to thank, and quick to lament.  Its certainly not that we shouldn’t bring our concerns before God.  In fact Scripture says in Philippians 4 that we should bring all things before the Lord:

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.



A quick note about Imprecatory (praying for justice on one’s enemies/evil) prayer:  David also gives us a model for what appropriate imprecatory prayer is.  Each of the Psalm today have an imprecatory quality towards them.  In the wake of 9/11 and with all of the horrific things that are going on in the world with bombings, war, violence, etc. I think that we hear very often that we should be more concerned with praying for our attackers and forgiving the evil people than we should be praying for justice to be done.  Let me first say that it is not wrong and is in fact very appropriate to pray for forgiveness of an aggressor or an enemy, and even to pray that they come to know the forgiveness and saving love of Jesus Christ.  However, as we see here, it is also not wrong to pray for justice and David shows us an appropriate way to do just that.  David doesn’t pray out of a motivation for vengeance or out of some personal grudge against someone he just wants to see get their dues, he prays for God’s justice to be done.  God’s justice is perfectly just and comes without malice or contempt.  God does not punish in rage or hatred, but out of love and the desire that one would learn and come to know Him.  Even Jesus, as He taught His Disciples to pray, taught them to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, a Kingdom in which true justice shall reign.

So if you are going to pray an imprecatory prayer, take a moment and check yourself.  It is perfectly ok to desire justice and peace on earth, but be sure that your prayers are not motivated by any selfish thoughts or emotions.  Rather, ask God that His justice would come and that His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in Heaven.  I leave you with the next verses of Philippians 4 as food for thought:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

PSALM 55-60 are all prayers of Lament written by David that are both imprecatory and didactic in nature.

Day 163: Psalms 49-54; A Prophetic Oracle

Today’s reading covers psalm 50 which is considered to be a “prophetic oracle” psalm.  In this Psalm, the writer speaks the words of the Lord towards the people.  This is the main thrust of prophecy, the delivery of the Word of God to a people at a certain time regarding a certain message.  Many Christians tend to lump prophecy into the books of the prophets and often think of it in terms of the visions of Daniel or the revelation of John in the New Testament.  Along with these thoughts come the plethora of weird and crazy imagery that comes with this particular genre of Biblical reading.  These writings are both marvelous and confusing, leaving us guessing as to what their true meanings are and how we are supposed to interpret them.  To be honest though, most of the things that come to mind when we talk about prophecy actually fall into their own category of Biblical literature called “apocalyptic literature.”

Still, it seems that the word and idea of prophecy has been co-opted into a much greater (not necessarily better) meaning by the contemporary culture and the culture of years past as well.  What do you think about when you hear the word prophecy?  Some people think of Nostradamus or the Mayan calendar.  Perhaps the first thing that jumps to you mind is the ‘prophecy’ of Harold Camping about the end of the world.  Maybe something along the lines of the “Left Behind” book series comes to mind as well.  While these are all different interpretations of ‘prophecy,’ whether gleaned from the pages of Scripture or ‘received’ by the Spirit, we need to make sure that we know what prophecy really is, what it is doing in the Bible, and how exactly we should interpret prophecy in the words of the Bible and also what we should do with the ‘prophecies’ that we hear about in the world today.

The first important point about prophecy is that the prophecy found in the Bible was directed first and foremost, primarily at a target audience from that day and age.  There are some that would say that there are secret messages contained within Biblical prophecy that needs to be unlocked, a notion that is in itself non-biblical.  The prophets were people called and sent by God, empowered to give a message to a particular group of people , centering around a Word from the Lord that needed to be delivered to the people.  Thinking that the prophet would stand up before a crowd and deliver a message that would have made no sense to the audience to whom he/she is speaking.  No, the words of prophecy would have been understood by the people of Israel.

While it is true that we believe that the Word of the Lord is living and active, and we believe that the Lord speaks to us through His word, we need to make sure that we are hearing what God wants us to hear rather than what we want us to hear.  What is more important than that is that we need to always be looking for the truth, the hope, and the trust that lies in each of the prophetic writings.  Even though these prophecies were written to an audience of another time and culture doesn’t mean that God is not able to speak through the Word of scripture none the less.  Ultimately, as we read and interpret the prophetic writings, we need to be making sure that it is God who is being raised up and glorified in all things and that we are not looking first to ourselves and using Scriptural texts to honor ourselves and life up our own motives.

PSALM 49 is a Psalm of Wisdom written by the Korahites. As the wisdom psalms always have, there is a very particular didactic quality to this Psalm as well.

PSALM 50 is a prophetic Oracle that was written by Asaph.  This is also a psalm of praise that is didactic in nature as well, something that is natural for prophetic writing.

PSALM 51 is a penitential psalm of lament that is written by David.  It was written after the prophet Nathan came to David after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, a narrative recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12.

PSALM 52 is a psalm of lament that is also didactic in nature.  This psalm is written by David and was written after the high priest Ahimelech had been executed by Saul for helping David, a narrative recorded in 2 Samuel 22.

PSALM 53 is also a psalm of lament that is didactic in nature.  It too was written as a lament of David and is basically a repeat of psalm 14 but includes the phrase, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'”

PSALM 54 is a psalm of lament that is also an imprecatory psalm that was written by David.  This psalm was written while David was hiding from Saul.

Day 162: Psalms 43-48; Psalms and Songs of Praise

Today we come to a group of Psalms that are all Psalms oriented around praising God.  While many of the Psalms have elements of praise in them, these particular Psalms, and some others, are full of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.  They take time within them to describe the many attributes of God and spell out very clearly who God is and why the writers are praising Him.  When I read these particular psalms, I often feel as though I stand in awe of God a great deal more than perhaps the average day of the week.  God is so eloquently described and so greatly uplifted I can’t help but be more amazed by Him and His acts.  Its as if I am being reminded once again who God really is and, on top of that, I am praising Him while learning more about Him.  In some ways its the same as when we lament and but remember in our lament who God is and why we continue to place our hope in Him even through the bad times.

Raising up our hands in worship

Raising up our hands in worship

Reading these psalms of praise, which were likely the popular praise songs of their day makes me think a bit about our contemporary context of worship as well.  Day after day there seems to be a plethora of new Christian music out there, its almost hard to sift through it all.  Some of it is certainly meant to be music that can be used in a corporate worship setting while the rest of it certainly isn’t.  I think many of my readers will know what I’m talking about, but for the sake of the rest, let me explain.

There are songs that are written that are clearly directed toward God, songs that are intended to be worshipful in nature.  There are also songs that definitely don’t fit this category.  In the mix are songs that are theologically solid, while others are definitely not.  I also know that there are many songs that are very well suited for congregational singing, while others are not for one reason or another.  Along with these there are many other categories that I tend to look at in music as I evaluate it for corporate worship at Overisel.  The music we sing may be different than the songs that you sing at your church, but the important thing is that when we join together for corporate worship, we are able to lift up and glorify the name of God together as the body of Christ.

Too often I think that we get caught up in the hype of the contemporary Christian music that is out there.  Every song means something different to someone and we find songs that we feel are “cool” and think they would be great for worship at church.  While I don’t want to discount anyone’s feelings towards a song of the emotions that a song my raise, it is important to remember that worship is about God, not about us.  It isn’t about the style that we like or the songs that we like best.  Worship is about raising up and glorifying God through all that we do, and particularly in our corporate worship.  Anything that would get in our way, anything that might hinder us from worship, anything that would take the place of God in our lives including the things that we want is idolatry.  Let us make sure that it is truly God that we are magnifying in our worship each and every day.

Kneeling at the Cross

Kneeling at the Cross

PSALM 43 is a psalm of lament that is actually a continuation from psalm 42.  At first these two psalms were combined, but in the cannon of Scripture, they have become Psalm 42 & 43.  This Psalm was written by the Korahites and is also a psalm of pilgrimage, also known as a psalm of ascent.

PSALM 44 is a particularly dark psalm of lament written by the Korahites.  There is definitely an section in which we see hope and trust in this psalm, but it is located in the center of very deep lament.

PSALM 45 is a royal psalm and  which has elements of a prophetic psalm.  It was also written by the Korahites and is considered by many to be “the wedding psalm” as it is indeed a wedding song.

PSALM 46 is a psalm of praise that is written by the Korahites as well.  In this psalm we can clearly see the elements of thanksgiving as well.  This psalm is also considered to be a psalm of ascent or a pilgrimage psalm.

PSALM 47 is also a psalm of praise that is also written by the Korahites.  This psalm is also called an enthronement psalm as describes God’s sovereign rule and affirms His position as a powerful Creator and sovereign Lord.

PSALM 48 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving that is written by the Korahites.  This too, along with psalm 43 and 46, is a psalm of ascent or a pilgrimage psalm, something that is made somewhat clear as we see the author talking about the city of Zion.  This is usually a give away that the Psalm is a psalm of ascent.

Day 161: Psalms 38-42; Praying the Psalms

Today’s Psalms are all prayers, maybe with the exception being Psalm 40.  They are impassioned laments that are put forth by David to God, again with the exception being Psalm 40.  Each one follows a very similar cadence that, being people of prayer, we can use as models for our own prayer life because there are always those times when we just don’t know what to pray for.  You know, like when you have 20 things on your to do list for the day and it is only 6:03… AM… Or when all your kids and spouse are sick at the same time and you just worked a full day… Or when you just can’t seem to get along with a family member and there is tension everywhere in the house so thick that you could cut it with a knife… Or work has just been awful lately and you despise your job but need to continue going for the sake of your family…

These and many more the the difficult situations that we encounter in our lives.  They are life draining and when we come to our time of devotions and prayer, we just don’t have anything left to give.  Romans 8 tells us that in those times the Spirit prays for us on our behalf with groanings that are too deep for words.  Even with this assurance, it is still sometimes nice to be able to speak the words that we want to God and to express our anguish, frustration, sorrows, and struggles to the Lord.  Psalms like these are good ways of doing that.  When you read them, did you hear the groanings of David’s spirit?  Did you find your own spirit groaning alongside of the words?  Sometimes I think that even when I can bring myself to pray these words are still much more eloquent and express my feelings better than even I can.

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water... Photo Credit:

Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water…
Photo Credit:

Yet its not about eloquence and neither is it about expressing one’s self in a way that is good for the one.  God knows our hearts and our struggles and he wants you to bring them before him.  He doesn’t care if you are using the right adverb or pronoun.  He doesn’t care if you cross back and forth between the past and the present tense.  He doesn’t even care if you can’t spell some of the words that you are using.  What God wants is for you to come to Him, and in many ways David is showing us a model of how to do that in a way that is good.

Yes… a way that is good.  Why do I say that?  So often we come before God and our prayer is something to the effect of:
“Dear Lord, Thanks for today.  Please be with this, please help me with that.  Please make this go away, please heal me from that.  God, please make my boss like me more, and help me to get a good grade on the exam.  Oh yeah, and bring peace on earth and be with sick and the poor… amen.”
Sound familiar?  Well it isn’t for me to criticize anyone’s personal prayers, I think it is important to see the nature of how David addresses God in these prayer Psalms.  It is entirely similar to how he addresses God in all of his psalms of lament.  David is not afraid to pour out his heart before the Throne of God.  He does not mind laying all of his burdens before the throne, however David is always very quick to make the turn from requests to placing his trust and hope in God.  Many times he spends a significant amount of time tell God why it is that he trusts the Lord and doesn’t simply place his own needs in front of the greatness of God.

I think this is the model that we need to follow when we come before God.  We need to understand that God isn’t some cosmic vending machine that we put prayer tokens into and get blessings out of.  We need to remember the whole story of God and how He has done so many great things for us all the time… that He redeemed our lives from the sin… that His grace and love flow freely even when we can’t feel it!

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God…

…Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

PSALM 38 is prayer of Lament that is written by David.  This is probably one of the darkest Psalms we will read.  Yet even here were are not left without a ray of hope and the trust the David so normally exhibits.

PSALM 39 is also a prayer of Lament that is written by David.  This too is a dark Psalm, but also clearly shows David’s trust and hope in the Lord.

PSALM 40 is a song of thanksgiving that is somewhat unique in that it is also imprecatory in nature.  Usually a psalm of thanksgiving is full of praise, yet this one is weaves together Davids thankfulness to God for all that He has done while also asking that justice will come for the evil.  The latter verses, 13-17, are also repeated in Psalm 70.

PSALM 41 is a Davidic psalm that laments an illness.  Like all of David’s psalms, he includes a ray of hope in this psalm as well.  At the end of this psalm we hear a doxology that is both written into this prayer but is also a transition piece from “Book 1” to “Book 2” of the Psalms.

PSALM 42 is actually part of a greater Psalm that encompasses both psalm 42 and 43.  It is a prayer of lament, but again not without hope.  This psalm also marks the beginning of the Elohistic psalms (which continue until psalm 83); these psalms tend to use the word Elohim for God instead of Yahweh; most are atrributed to the Korahites or David.

Day 160: Psalms 35-37; Wisdom Psalms

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

In this time of open houses and life transitions, this words can have a much larger impact on the hearer than perhaps would normally be the case.  These words come from Psalm 37, a “wisdom Psalm” that speaks very clearly about the benefits of placing our trust in the Lord.  The whole Psalm is filled with these phrases, urging the reader to place their trust in God almighty.  This particular phrase is also found in the book of Proverbs, and actually describes a very particular way to view the world and our place in it.

Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord Photo Credit:

Psalm 37:5
Commit your way to the Lord
Photo Credit:

The word ‘commit’ comes from the Hebrew word גֹּול which is pronounced “goal” which means literally to roll out something.  What are we rolling?  Well the word we use is ‘way’ which comes from the Hebrew word  דַּרְכֶּךָ, pronounced “derekch, which means the path of you.  Where are we rolling it?  עַל־יְהוָה which means ‘on to the Lord.  So literally this phrase reads: ‘roll the path of you on to the Lord.’  This reveals and describes the way in which the Hebrew people viewed the path of their lives.  Remember, several weeks ago we talked about how the Hebrew people “walked backwards into the future?”  Well, this too reveals a style of life in which the people of God are constantly rolling out the path of their life.  As the phrase reads, we are rolling the path of our lives “on to the Lord.”  Where does this place God?

Under us.
Holding up the path of our lives.
Guiding where it is going to go next.
Sustaining us and providing the way for us to go.

The second phrase in this verse reads וּבְטַח עָלָיו וְהוּא יַעֲשֶֽׂה in Hebrew.  Literally translated, this would read ‘and trust on Him and He will do it.‘  This is basically saying the same thing: if we place our trust on the Lord, the one on whom we are rolling out the path of our life, then He will do all the things that were just said!  In many ways, this is a complete response to the Hebrew shema as well!

If we look at this from a life position, it would be us kneeling down, rolling out the path of our life on to the Lord.  We are continually keeping our eyes and our focus on the Lord and trusting in him.  In doing this, we believe that He will show us the way in which we are to roll our lives out.  This kind of reminds me of the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water.  Peter walked on the water as long as he was looking at Jesus and trusting in him, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus he began to sink.  Like Peter, we need to keep our eyes focus on the Lord as we walk through life, making sure that what we are doing is indeed rolling the path of our lives out on to the Lord!

PSALM 35 is a Imprecatory Psalm of Lament written by David.  This is a Psalm of ups and downs, but ultimately shows David’s willingness to trust in the Lord and rejoice in the Lord through all of the hard times.  David prays for vindication from his enemies, but at the same time also rejoices with those that support him.

PSALM 36 is a Psalm of Thanksgiving that also has some didactic qualities.  There is an air of Lament found in this Psalm as well.  But like most of these type of Psalms, there is much to say about the love of God and his great works.

PSALM 37 is a Psalm of Wisdom meaning that it Guides us to the path of righteousness and shows us how to seek God’s will and direction.  Naturally, a Psalm like this also has many didactic qualities as well.  Ultimately this Psalm is imploring the reader and the hearer to commit to the way of the Lord and to reap the benefits, rewards and blessings that come from such a commitment.  This Psalm is also an acrostic, written by David.

Psalm 37:5 Commit Your Way to the Lord Photo Credit:

Psalm 37:5
Commit Your Way to the Lord
Photo Credit:

Day 159: Psalms 31-34; Penitential Prayer

Psalm 32 Photo Credit:

Psalm 32
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The idea of Penitence is not a popular one in today’s culture.  Penitence is the act in which we humble ourselves before God and confess our sins to Him.  For some this is boiled down to simply admitting that we did something wrong.  This is not something that we like to do in our culture today.  Our leaders emulate a culture of blame and pointing fingers, never truly admitting that what has happened and what was done was in any way their fault.  We see this time and again, in tragedies and in recent governmental scandals, that everyone always points fingers until someone (who usually isn’t actually the culprit) takes the fall.  Even in this time, we usually hear some sort of thinly veiled apology, but never a request for forgiveness… never a penitential attitude… and certainly never the willingness to forgive.

Still others think that this is a wholly unnecessary part of the Christian life in that we are forgiven people that have been washed in Jesus blood.  For them, Christian freedom is the freedom to do whatever one wants because of the forgiveness that has been given to us.  While this notion of sin and forgiveness does pick up on the Truth that we are both sinners and we are forgiven, it would be entirely wrong to say that as Christians we are able to do whatever we wan t because of our forgiveness.  Paul picks up this theme throughout the book Romans, touching on this particular topic in Romans 6.

Psalm 32:8 Photo Credit:

Psalm 32:8
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For others, it is a humbling act in which we lay open our lives before God on a continual basis understanding that the truth of the Gospel is not solely about the condemnation of sin, but about the grace that is received in Christ.  In the same way that we have a time of confession and assurance of our pardon in worship services, we do this in our everyday lives as well.  This is an act of remembering the reality in which we live, on that is overflowing with grace!  We also remember the reality from which we came, one in which we were trapped in sin and, as Psalm 32 says, it was causing us to waste away to nothing.  David writes though that those who confess their sins are blessed because they are forgiven.  He goes on to write that they are continually blessed because in a penitential attitude, people also find the instruction of the Lord and learn how to live their lives in a way that honors and glorifies Him.  In that we can rejoice, as David writes, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.  Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

PSALM 31 is a Psalm of lament, again written by David.  The words of verse 5 are also words that Jesus spoke when He was on the cross, “Into Your hands I commit my spirit…”  Interestingly, there is a bit of a contrast between this Psalm and the attitude of Jesus on the cross.  Psalm 31 has an imprecatory nature swirling around it, however Jesus prayed for those that crucified Him asking the Lord to forgive them rather than punish them.

PSALM 32 is both a song of thanksgiving and a penitential prayer.  David is thankful for the forgiveness He receives, but also continually prays for forgiveness for all that he does in his life.  This Psalm has a didactic quality to it as well, teaching of the benefits that come along with submitting ourselves to the Lord.

PSALM 33 is a Psalm of praise that is written anonymously.  Apart from being full of praise and adoration for the Lord, this Psalm also exhibits trust in the Lord because of all He has done.

PSALM 34 is a Psalm of Thanksgiving that is also written as an acrostic.  David wrote this Psalm when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, a narrative recorded in 1 Samuel 21.  This Psalm is also didactic in nature, teachig and telling of all the many ways that God has been good to David and how He has protected David.

Day 158: Psalms 25-30; Lament and Praise

Of all the types of Psalms in this book, the two that are most common and recognized the best are the Psalms of lament and the Psalms of praise.  We talked about the Psalms of lament on June 4 when we talked through Psalm 13 and the model for lament that it so clearly shows.  Today we encounter more of the lamenting Psalms, all of which addresses different times of David‘s life in which he was struggling with something.  Each one ends in a very similar fashion, a statement of trust to the Lord.

I still think that this is an amazing way to end Psalms like this.  When the chips are down and David is facing the harsh reality of life, He isn’t at all afraid to cry out to God.  Yet even in that he holds tightly to his faith.  As I read these cries again and again, seeing them set next to some of the great Psalms of praise that David writes, I find myself wondering at how he can say these sharply contrasting statements and how they would even be placed next to each other in this book.

Even in my wondering though, the answer is so clear:  TRUTH.  There is so much truth in these Psalms and the fact that they sit together, side by side, only multiplies that truth.  David cries out to God and places his trust in Him because of the things that he proclaims about God in these Psalms of praise.  At the same time, David is able to praise God and lift up his voice in worship because of the steadfast faithfulness of God in the many times of trouble that David has encounters.  It is so much like our own lives and I think that is why it touches us so deeply.  We mourn in times of sadness because of the loss of the good times… and we celebrate in good times partially because they are so much better than the bad.  The circle is unending and both the highs and the lows play of each other.  In many ways this reminds me of Job when he says in chapter 1, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Today’s set of Psalms shows such a contrast.  Read Psalm 25-28 again.  These are all Psalms of lament dealing with various situations.  Now contrast that with a reading of Psalm 29, a beautiful Psalm of praise to God.  Are there not similar words and phrases in these Psalms?  Does David not talk about the greatness of God in all 4 of them?  We praise God because of who He is and what He has done.  He has brought us up from the pit; He has washed us clean in the blood of Jesus.  1 Peter 2 says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  We know from where it was that we have come, ushered into the light by the work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We rejoice because we have been raised up by the power of God… and when times are tough we lament and yet still place our trust fully and completely in God alone for we know He is able to bring us through all things.

PSALM 25 is a Psalm of Lament that is written by David.  Clearly, there is a didactic quality to it as we can see in the title given to it in the ESV.  David’s prayer here is also penitential and imprecatory.  Yet it ends as it begins, with a prayer of hope and and commitment to trust in the Lord.  Interestingly, in the Hebrew, this Psalm is also an acrostic, with each letter of the next line starting with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  For more on this you can check on “Dom Donald’s Blog.”

PSALM 26 is a very basic Psalm of Lament that also is written by David.  As he writes, David petitions the Lord for vindication from the trouble he is facing and also commits to continuing to walk in the ways of the Lord.

PSALM 27 is also a Psalm of Lament.  However, in this psalm David starts off with a statement of faith that then colors the whole of the Psalm.  Though all the things that he lists are going on, David commits very clearly to trusting the Lord and following after Him.

PSALM 28 is our final Psalm of Lament for the Day, once again showing David’s trust in the Lord.  In this Psalm we also find some imprecatory statements about David’s enemies and those that are wicked and do evil.  In spite of what ever it is that is going on in David’s life, he has clearly turned to God for his support.

PSALM 29 is the Psalm of Praise that contrasts these four Psalms of Lament.  If you listen carefully, you can hear some of the same phrases and ideas that David speaks about in his laments in this Psalm of praise!  It is a real testament the steadfastness of God.  The God of our times of praise is also our God through our times of distress, and we give thanks for His faithfulness through both of those times!

PSALM 30 is a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise written for the dedication of the Temple.  Like most of these types of Psalms, this one is also very didactic in nature, talking about all of great things that God has done and how He has brought them to this point!

Day 157: Psalms 19-24; Entering the Temple

Today’s reading contains what is arguably the most famous of the Psalms: Psalm 23.  Chances are, if you have ever been in Sunday School or some sort of Church education function as a child, you know this Psalm or are at least familiar with it.  It is a Psalm that I think I have heard in relationship to every struggle, every trial, and probably at every funeral as well.  It is a heartfelt confession of trust from David to God that encompasses all problems, struggles, and life situations.  I repeat this to myself often, reminding myself that no matter what I am facing, the Lord will guide me through it as a shepherd guides his sheep.

However, today we are going to focus in more on Psalm 24 as it is the last of the “Temple Entry Liturgy” Psalms, the second of two.  There are other Psalms that we will encounter later that have some similar motifs, however they are often considered “songs of Ascent” or “pilgrim psalms.”  Psalm 24 has a great deal to do with “ascending the hill of the Lord,” which is a reference to going up to the Temple Mount.  As we can see, the Hebrew version of going to church is a much fuller worship experience than our contemporary journey to church on a given Sunday morning.  For them, it was a joyful time that actually took quite a while, and was full of singing and reflection.  The people of God spent the time remembering who they were and whose they were as they approached God’s house.  They remembered how they were chosen and how God has called them to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood.  We see this very clearly in the second section of this Psalm too.

In our day, we probably don’t come to worship with Psalm 24 on our minds.  In fact, I think that in many ways we have lost the idea of what it means to be gathered to worship, the significance of Sunday morning as we prepare ourselves for worship.  Perhaps the morning is just too busy getting kids together and getting dressed up.  Maybe we really just want that extra 15 minutes of sleep and then we end up running behind.  In any case, it is as much a fact for me as a worship leader as it is for all that come that we are probably not in the right frame of mind for worship when we arrive.  Psalm 24 reminds us that it is important that we have prepared our hearts for entering into the presence of God in worship.  And for us, we can do this thankfully because we don’t have to offer a sacrifice or worry if we have performed some ritual properly… the sacrifice has been made for us and the curtain between God and humanity has been ripped open.  Our relationship with God has been restored and we are washed in the blood of Jesus sacrifice!  Our hands are clean and our hearts are made pure, and are continually being worked in by the Holy Spirit!  Come, let us ascend to the House of the Lord!

PSALM 19 is a Psalm of both praise and wisdom, divided into two parts: the praise section in verses 1-6 and the wisdom section in verses 7-14.  You can also see how thankfulness plays into both of these sections as all three are eloquently woven together.  The words that end this Psalm are the words that I pray every Sunday as I lead worship: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

PSALM 20 is a Royal Psalm written by David, a prayer that flows with trust in the Lord.  This Psalm also has a quality of intercession in it as David prays for “you,” whoever that may be.  It is beautiful and moving as we read it to head the voice of King David as he prays this prayer for all believers.

PSALM 21 is also a Royal Psalm written by David.  You can also feel the praise and the thanksgiving that runs through this Psalm as you read it.  David is extolling the Lord for the great deeds that have been performed on his behalf by the Lord.

The Lord is my Good Shepherd

The Lord is my Good Shepherd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PSALM 22 is a Psalm of Lament that is written by David.  The words the begin this Psalm are the very words that Jesus utters on the cross as he is dying in Matthew 27 and Mark 15.  This is probably one of the darkest Psalms that reaches to the depth of despair and abandonment.  Yet even here, the Psalm is ended with hope and trust in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness.

PSALM 23 is the most popular of Psalms, a confession of trust written by David.  It’s familiarity is a bonus for us as we can take these words of trust and assurance with us in our day to day lives.

PSALM 24 is a Temple Entry Liturgy Psalm, as we discussed above.  It also has a didactic quality to it as it teaches about those who may ascend to the Lord’s House and whom it is that the Lord is seeking.  Also in this Psalm we see the praise that is woven through it all and the worship that takes place even in the gathering time of God’s people!

Day 156: Psalms 15-18; A Royal Psalm

Have you ever just felt the urge to just sing and praise God for some reason.  Perhaps it was for no reason at all, just a joyful song welling up inside of you?  I know I have from time to time.  It just started to come out and before you know it you are singing praises to God, saying prayers of thanks for everything, and lifting up all things before the King of the universe.  Its like an infectious good mood that you can’t stop, a laughter that comes out at the most awkward of times, a smile that makes people wonder what you’re up to inside your head.  It is one of the truest expressions of “my cup overflows” that we experience in our lives.

Sometimes this can be brought on by seemingly nothing.  I know I’ve had days where I just hop out of bed singing in the morning and am praising God all day long.  I suppose it should probably be like this every day, but lets face it, we do live in a broken world and not every day is a good day… even if we believe that every day is a gift.

Psalm 18 - The Lord is My Rock Photo Credit:

Psalm 18 – The Lord is My Rock
Photo Credit:

There are other times though, when the circumstances of our lives bring us to our knees or lift us up in worship to God.  Perhaps you’ve just come through a very trying time in your family.  Maybe someone you or someone you know has just come through a difficult illness or loss.  It could be that you’ve been struggling with some problem personally for a long time and have just found freedom and victory from it.  In these cases and so many more, when we come through them by the grace of God we experience in a very real and tangible way how God upholds us and sustains us through every difficult step.  These are the times when it seems the easiest to lift up songs of praise!

This is the case with Psalm 18 today.  We read in the title that this is a Psalm that David sang “when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”  Remember all of the struggles that David had with Saul?  We talked about David’s “exile” and how he was forced to feel from Saul in the wilderness for a long time and also from his son Absalom, an event which brought about Psalm 3 which we talked about on June 2.  Even after Saul died, David still had to contend with those that were loyal to Saul for the throne.  During his reign, David fought many wars with other nations, ultimately bringing peace to Israel.  This Psalm is kind of like David’s Song of Deliverance and David’s Song of Thanks recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and 1 Chronicles 16.  Both of those songs were similar to the Psalms we are reading now, and take on that same “Royal Psalm” motif of proclaiming the greatness of God and praising Him.

PSALM 15 is a liturgical Psalm that centers around Entering the Temple.  This would have likely been sung by priests and by those who were going up to the Temple of God to worship.  You can see too that Psalm 15 also has some didactic qualities to it as well.  Some might call this a “Song of Ascent,” though we will encounter more of those later in the book of Psalms.

PSALM 16 is a Psalm of trust that is written by David.  Reading through it, we see a beautiful confession of David’s trust in God.  If you listen closely to the word of this Psalm, you hear echoes of the prophecy of the coming Messiah and can see references to Christ hidden within these words.

PSALM 17 is another model Psalm for Lament that has didactic elements to it as well.  Like Psalm 13, we see the confession of trust in God at the end.

PSALM 18 is a Royal Psalm, as we talked about above.  In it we see David proclaiming the magnificence of God which is shown through all of creation.  We also see a great deal of thankfulness and praise in this Psalm as well.  I also think that, as you read it, and perhaps re-read it, you will find the Psalm impressing on your heart the many reasons to praise God each and every moment of your life… which certainly gives it a familiar didactic quality as well.

Psalm 18:28 - The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness Photo Credit:

Psalm 18:28 – The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness
Photo Credit:

Day 155: Psalms 8-14; Lots of Lamenting

Psalm 13: How Long, O Lord? Photo Credit:

Psalm 13: How Long, O Lord?
Photo Credit:

Today we come across one of my favorite Psalms.  Oddly enough, it isn’t one of praise or thanksgiving.  Neither is it one of theologically Psalm teaching.  The Psalm that I really like and connect with is Psalm 13, a dark prayer of lament.  Before I took the time to really look into this Psalm, and before I really started studying the Bible, I wold have looked at this as just another sad song written by David.  However, when I was at what was probably the lowest point of my life I happened to come across this Psalm, in much the same manner that we encounter it today.  I was depressed and lost with no understanding of what I was to do next.  I felt like God had closed every door in my life and had then abandoned me in the now sealed room.  It was then  that I turned to Scripture (because most of us only turn to Scripture when we have no where else to turn, long after we should have turned there of course) in hopes of some answers, and it was then that I came across Psalm 13.

The words that David writes here are so deeply personal and anguished, as if he too had fallen into a pit of despair.  But while the words of the first part of Psalm 13 resonated with me, it was the last few lines that really caught my attention:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because He has dealt bountifully with me.

David doesn’t seem to see an end in sight.  He feels lost and forgotten.  For David, the enemy has basically won.  Yet in the midst of his sorrow, David speaks the words “But I have trusted in Your steadfast love…”  Some versions place the trust in the future tense, “WILL trust in Your steadfast love…”  I can just imagine David writing this Psalm and praying it before the Lord.  I wonder how many times it took him to say the first 2 sections before he was able to say the last one.  When the chips are down and the world seems to be caving in around us, how quick are we to say “but I will trust in Your steadfast love my God…”  For me, I know it isn’t quick… its pretty much the last thing I want to say.  Yet David, who experienced all manner of calamity in life was able to bring himself to say it with confidence.  Perhaps this is a reminder that we too need to look beyond the problem and see God’s greater hand at work…

PSALM 8 is a great Psalm of praise and thanksgiving.  David is magnifying the name of the Lord for all of the works of His hands.  In this David also shows his thankfulness to God for the special place that humanity is given in creation.

PSALM 9 is a Davidic Psalm with an interesting mixture of thanksgiving and lament.  In it we also find an didactic motif as well as some lines that are imprecatory in nature.  In it we almost find a recipe for prayer in that we see an opening thanksgiving which is followed by the reasons for which we give thanks to God as well as God’s actions.  There is also a bit of praising after this.  We then read a lament for things not right and a call for justice from God by David.

PSALM 10 is, for all intents and purposes, a continuation of Psalm 9.  It continues in the lament that we read in Psalm 9 and takes on the same imprecatory tone as well.  David’s writing here also has the same didactic features that were present in Psalm 9.

PSALM 11 is another Psalm of Lament written by David.  This Psalm, however, takes on a very specific tone of confession and trust in the Lord which also gives it a similar didactic tone as Psalms 9  & 10.  David says that he will take refuge in the Lord and then goes on to tell why he does that.

PSALM 12 is a similar Psalm to that of Psalm 11 in the lamenting and didactic themes that it picks up, though the subject of the Psalm is quite a bit different.

Psalm 13: How Long, O Lord? Photo Credit:

Psalm 13: How Long, O Lord?
Photo Credit:

PSALM 13 is THE Psalm of Lament.  It really is the model for how to appropriately offer lament to God.  We see it divided up very easily: a complaint (verses 1-2), a call to God for help (verses 3-4), and a confession of trust in God’s love (verses 5-6).

PSALM 14 is another Psalm of lament by David that also has a didactic quality to it.  Interestingly, this Psalm is basically the same as Psalm 53 with the exception of just a few lines.

Day 154: Psalms 1-7; The Psalms!

Well we have come to the end of Job and are now venturing into another book of the wisdom literature, the PSALMS!  This is one of my favorite books of the Bible!  Psalms is such a widely diverse book with songs and prayers that span the entirety of human experience.  The book of Psalms is, in many ways, a manual for many things.  Contained in it are a plethora of prayers for an even greater plethora of situations spanning from joy and thankfulness to despair and mourning.  Also in the Psalms is an abundance of music and songs, much of which had been put to music then and has again been put to music in our contemporary setting as well.  We find in it the words to sing or speak in worship that help us to express the whole range of our feelings from rejoicing to lament, and everything in between.

Each of the individual Psalms in this book has a unique purpose and a unique situation that it is being written for.  The English Standard Version Bible does a good job of giving each Psalm a label or title, something that certainly does not appear in the original Hebrew text.  I think that this is very helpful though, for giving a general direction of where the Psalm is going and what it is about.  Especially for those that are looking for a Psalm to use in worship or, and this is my personal favorite, to find Scripture that puts into words our deepest thoughts and feelings better than we can.  N.T. Wright, a contemporary Theologian and author of many books, said in an address to the Calvin Worship Symposium two years ago, that he reads 5 Psalms a day in a continuously rotating cycle.  It is a book of prayer and worship, he said, and studying it helps to given me the words that I can use to better worship God and lift up prayers to him.  That is a paraphrase of course.  He said it much more eloquently.  In any case, the book of Psalms is simply a wonderful book to read over and over again!  It never gets old and it is amazing how different Psalms touch us at different times!

The risk, for me, in writing about the Psalms is that I would want to say a lot about each one of them.  Each Psalm could probably support multiple sermons at once.  I think though, that I would try to limit what I say about each Psalm to the type of the Psalm and some general observations every now and then.  There are many different types of Psalms.  As I said, they serve different functions and were written each in its own situation.  My hope is that each day, for each Psalm, we can identify what type of Psalm we are reading and perhaps some of the purpose behind them.

Psalm 1 Illustration by Lauren Gallegos Photo Credit:

Psalm 1 Illustration by Lauren Gallegos
Photo Credit:

PSALM 1 is a wisdom Psalm that is also Didactic in nature.  The shows us the path of righteousness through the avoidance of that of the wicked.  If you listen closely to this Psalm, you’ll hear the echos of the call of the Shema in Deuteronomy 6!

PSALM 2 is what is called a “Royal Psalm.”  This Psalm talks a great deal about the reign of the one that the Lord has anointed.  There are several phrases that are used in this Psalm that are directly Christological in nature which makes it a prophetic and Messianic Psalm as well..  One phrase in particular: “The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you,” shows up in Acts 13, Hebrews 1 & Hebrews 5 as well.

PSALM 3 is a Psalm of Lament written by David when he was fleeing from his son Absalom.  These Psalms are often prayers for deliverance from evil as well.

PSALM 4 is also a Psalm of Lament written by David.  While this particular Psalm doesn’t have a specific situation that comes with it, we know many times in the story of David’s life when this Psalm would be applicable.

PSALM 5 is yet another Psalm of Lament that is written by David.  However, this Psalm throws in a different twist in that it is also an Imprecatory Psalm.  We can see here, in a rather subtle way, that David seems to be reminding God of what He is supposed to do to the wicked.  This is more pronounced in other Psalms.  If you read closely, you will also notice that this Psalm is also didactic in nature.

PSALM 6 is another combination of a lament and imprecatory Psalm.  Here, however, we can see David’s request for justice on the wicked in a much more direct way.  This Psalm is also Penitential Psalm, confessing sin and asking the Lord for forgiveness.  It is the first of many that uses this confession / assurance of pardon language that we often find familiar in our worship liturgy.

PSALM 7 is an interesting mix of lament, imprecatory, and didactic.  It is sometimes thought of as a Psalm for the falsely accused.

Day 153: Job 39-42; The Lord Answers Job

Again today, I think it makes most sense if we also include Job 38 in our discussion for today as it is the beginning of God’s response to Job.  Also today we have come to the end of Job.  We have seen the long dialogue and the questions.  We have learned appropriate ways to respond to God in the different situations that we find ourselves in.  In this we have also seen good ways to support our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors in their pain and struggle in life by virtue of the example set by Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar in how not to be a good friend in time of need.

"The Hands of the Creator" Photo Credit:

“The Hands of the Creator”
Photo Credit:

Today, though, we hear the Lord’s response to Job’s challenge of God.  Again, I see the point made here that God is not worried about our questions.  There is no pressure that God buckles under.  Indeed there is nothing to big or to small for the Lord to contend with, and He makes this abundantly clear in His response: “Who are you… Where were you… Can you do these things?”  God is asserting His God-ness… the fact that He is wholly other… completely and totally above all things.  He asks Job question after question and I can just see Job feeling a little smaller after each one.  God covers everything from the star in the heavens, to what happened at the time of creation, to His strength above and providence toward all creatures.  Without a doubt, when the people of Israel would read this, the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 would come rushing back into their minds.  Perhaps they would be reminded of the story of Noah and the great flood in Genesis 6-9 or of Moses and the 10 plagues that so vividly displayed God’s power over all creation in Exodus 7-12.

Yet the passage that we encounter today is not simply about God’s power above all things and His ability to do whatever He wants because He is God.  Though we believe this to be true in some respects, we also believe that God cannot and does not act outside of the character of God; a “limitation” (if you can call it that) that God has placed on Himself.  God is the True measure of Love, Grace, Mercy, Holiness, Truth, Justice, etc.  He will not act in any way less than what that is.  However, He is still God and His knowledge and wisdom, the Will of the almighty, it completely beyond our comprehension and God is reminding Job, humanity, and specifically the people of Israel of this very truth.

The Lord Answers Job Out of the Whirlwind Photo Credit:

The Lord Answers Job Out of the Whirlwind
Photo Credit:

Which brings us back to the very people we have been following so closely up until this book.  We may have taken a step back in time, or a side step in the on going narrative of the people of God, yet really… we haven’t… because this message is directed specifically at them.  In many ways Job is representative of the people of Israel, God’s chosen people.  The life of this nation, in many ways, reflects the life of Job.  They were blessed beyond compare, chosen by God to be His people and to be a blessing to the nations.  Yet, like every nation and every person, they encountered some hard times when they seemed to have lost it all.  Really, this happens several times over the course of the history of Israel and each time it does, the people fall victim to the gods of other nations, the “friends” that try to come and offer comfort.  God’s people even begin to question God and turn away from Him, thinking that their ways are better than God’s.  Interesting that God doesn’t show up in a whirlwind and put them in their place as He did with Job.  And yet… in some ways He does.  Perhaps it is not so direct, so obviously right in front of them, but God’s work always seems to bring them back around.  Whether it is slavery in Egypt, Wandering in the wilderness, defeats in battle, or even exile from their land, God always works to bring them back to Himself.

And this… this is the Truth behind the story of Job and the story of the people of Israel.  God has called them, through no merit of their own, and even when they turn away, God is quick to forgive and quick to restore.  We see this here with Job.  He does not remain obstinate and indignant about his current situation, but quickly falls to his knees and admits his own wrong doing.  This is a lesson for the people of Israel and for all who follow God.  The ways of the Lord are above and beyond our comprehension, yet no matter where we find ourselves, no matter what we have done, if we turn to God and repent of our sins, God is quick to forgive and to restore.  Whether we are walking on the path that the Sun is shining down on or the road marked with pain and suffering, we must cling to the hope that we have in God almighty, our ever-present, all powerful God who promises time and again that He will never leave us and He will never forsake us.

Day 152: Job 35-38; Enter Elihu

Today we pick up in the middle of Elihu‘s speech to Job and his friends, but really today’s post is all about Elihu, from Job 32-37.  Elihu is the contrast, the friend that we all wish that we had.  He is the guy that tells it like it is, who doesn’t shy away from discomfort, but also isn’t afraid to tell the truth.  And so he does here, without hesitation, rebuking Job and Job’s friends Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz.  He then speaks the truth of the situation to them all.

First, Elihu speaks to Job’s friends, making known the truth of their words towards Job.  There was no wisdom to be found among them say he, despite their age and experience.  Among their many words to Job, no answer could be found to Job’s cries.

Second, Elihu speaks directly to Job in truth about Job’s situation, one that we all find ourselves in as we discover.  Elihu makes it plain to Job that all of humanity is the same before God, we all stand before him as that which is taking from the clay, from the dust of the earth… creatures before our creator.  Contending with God as though we know better is not right, Elihu says, and we must be careful in what we say.  None of us are blameless before the Almighty and none have knowledge or wisdom above that of God.  Indeed God is in control of all things in life and sustains the world from beginning to end.  From the dust God formed us.  It is He who gives us life.  It is He who sustains us.  It is He who numbers our days.  Nothing happens in this world without the will of God in heaven.  Who are we to stand up and say God is wrong and we are right?

The Wrath of Elihu, from the Butts set. Pen an...

The Wrath of Elihu, from the Butts set. Pen and black ink, gray wash, and watercolour, over traces of graphite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally, this is the answer that Elihu gives to both Job and his friends Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz: God is Great and Majestic… God is Justice.  There is really no better way to say it so I will leave today with excerpts from Elihu’s speech.  I think it deserves to be said though, in closing today, that Elihu is different from Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad.  He has answered Job and these three friends truthfully.  He has rebuked what needs to be rebuked, and has left the rest up to God.  Elihu doesn’t give quick answers without thought, but speaks the Truth of God’s Will, and leaves the rest to God.

“Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Who gave him charge over the earth,
and who laid on him the whole world?
If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.”

“Remember to extol his work,
of which men have sung.
All mankind has looked on it;
man beholds it from afar.
Behold, God is great, and we know him not;
the number of his years is unsearchable.”

“Do you know how God lays his command upon them
and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,
you whose garments are hot
when the earth is still because of the south wind?
Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
hard as a cast metal mirror?”

“And now no one looks on the light
when it is bright in the skies,
when the wind has passed and cleared them.
Out of the north comes golden splendor;
God is clothed with awesome majesty.
The Almighty—we cannot find him;
he is great in power;
justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
Therefore men fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”

Day 151: Job 31-34; Job Challenges God

There is a fine line in Job’s appeal to his own righteousness that he has walked fairly well until now.  Dealing with his friends’ accusations of unrighteousness and speaking that truth about himself is not necessarily a bad thing.  Job has been true to himself and true to God up to this point.  He has maintained his integrity and even stood up for God’s ability to do as God wills in Job’s life.  He has admitted that there is a higher power and a higher wisdom at work and, though Job has done nothing wrong and certainly nothing to deserve what has happened to him, he will trust in God because God is much larger than he.  All this Job has done in the face of pain and suffering, in the face of loneliness and accusations, in the face of encouragement by his wife by his wife to just give up, and in the face of what I’m sure was an overabundance of inner voices that sought to bring him down as well.

Up to today, or arguably yesterday, Job has walked this line very carefully.  His responses to his friends have been true and they have honored God.  However today, unfortunately, Job kind of crosses a line.  Maybe he just couldn’t take it anymore.  Perhaps he reached is breaking point.  More likely though, in this narrative of Job he says these things to prove a point and accent the truth that is and will be communicated through this book.  So what is the line that Job crosses?  To date, Job has maintained his innocence in front of his friends as well as his integrity.  He has not accused anyone else of wrong doing and he has conceded that God is God and no one can understand the ways of God.  Yet today Job, for all intents and purposes, changes his tone a little… he starts questioning God.  We see it right away in Chapter 31:

I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?
What would be my portion from God above
and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is not calamity for the unrighteous,
and disaster for the workers of iniquity?
Does not he see my ways
and number all my steps?

You see, Job is appealing to what we are familiar with as the moral codes of Israel; the Law if you will.  For the people of Israel it went something like this: “If you follow the law, I will reward you.”  This was the prevailing opinion of Job’s day too and really of most of the Biblical times.  If you live righteously and follow God you will be blessed.  Job knows this and believes it, and at the end of his discourse he sort of calls God out on it.  He points out several times that what has happened to him is meant for the wicked and the unrighteous.  In a way, he is kind of telling God that He is wrong for doing this.  This, as you can imagine, is where Job crosses the line, and we’ll see two days from now how God responds to this.

Sometimes this section of the book of Job is used to silence to suffering.  When taken out of context, it seems as though Job is just a whiny person who has encountered some bad luck and is blaming God for it.  Yet we know, in the context of the whole narrative of Job, that there is a much deeper story going on here, one that transcends human understanding and yet is still completely intertwined in it.  Be that as it may, there is nothing written here about the suffering not crying out to God.  While no one, really no one, ever said that life would be fair, this is not God’s way of saying that we cannot come to Him with our problems.  It also doesn’t say that we can’t plead our case before the throne of God.  As believers in Christ we know that we “Have a great high priest who has gone before us” and who is “seated at the Right Hand of the Father, interceding for us.”  As I mentioned yesterday, the Psalms are full of laments to God about the situations that the writers were in.  God welcomes us into His presence!  “Come you who are weak and burdened, and I will give you rest…”

There is a line though that we must be careful not to cross… not because we will be struck dead or cast out, but because of the dangerous thinking that comes on the other side.  In all things we need to remember who we are and whose we are.  We are God’s creatures, the creation of a being so much greater than we could possibly even begin to imagine.  It is important for us, as we bring our requests, laments, and burdens to God that we also come in faith and trust knowing that all things work according to the will of God and that they will “work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  “The Lion of Judah neither slumbers nor sleeps,” “He will not let your foot slip.”  “Not even a hair can fall from your head without the will of the Father in heaven.”  God “knows the plans He has for us…” and welcomes our responses, our prayers, our laments, and even our questions.  But we have to trust the answers, trust that God will work His good, pleasing, and perfect will, and trust that his plans are “to prosper us, to give us hope and a future.”  Amen.

Day 150: Job 27-30; Job's Defense

Job has clearly endured a great deal of pain and trauma in his life.  The loss of all his monetary wealth is one thing and the loss of his family and loved ones is completely another thing.  Yet Job has lost most than this, a loss that we have experiences over the past couple of days.  Job has lost the support of his friends and his wife which is pretty much all that he has left on this earth.  You know the saying “when it rains, it pours?”  For Job it would be more along the lines of “when it rains, it hurricanes.”  One could say that no matter what bad day anyone has ever had, Job definitely had it worse.

But even saying that is a way of taking sides with Job’s friends.  They have answered Job in ways that have sought to minimize his pain so that they don’t feel as uncomfortable.  This may or may not be the reason for their answers and accusations of Job, we’ll never truly know, but I think that this does strike a chord with our own hearts and feelings when we encounter those that are struggling.  Telling someone else that they should “buck up” because there are those that have it worse is a way of doing this.  Sadly, we even do this to ourselves, minimizing our own feelings of hurt or sadness because we don’t want to deal with them.  I understand… I’ve been there… its difficult to feel alone and abandoned, defeated and disdained.  No one craves that as an existential reality, but we have all been there and it is a place that we don’t want to return.  So when those feelings begin to seep back into our lives, it rapidly becomes a flood of memories and hurt that we cannot hope to handle.  Clearly, this is not the way that we are supposed to be struggling through our trials and hurts… but how then?

Job shows us the way.  He sets the example for us.

When it seems like all is lost…
When it seems like it couldn’t possibly get worse…
When it seems like there is nothing else to lose…
When it seems like all have turned away…
When it seems like even God has turned His back…
Job still maintains his faith in God almighty.

We see this laid out clearly for us in today’s reading.  Job knows that he has not done anything to deserve this and he even recognizes that God has allowed these things to happen to him.  It seems as though Job understands well that nothing happens outside the will of God as expressed in His ongoing sustaining of the universe.  He isn’t necessarily happy about it, and rightfully so.  As we’ll see in the Psalms in the coming weeks, there are many people who cry out to God in their distress, and that is ok!  We are allowed to lament; God welcomes our cries… He is the ultimate comforter.

Job doesn’t seek an explanation for all that is going on here.  He understands that the wisdom of God is far beyond his comprehension and believes that there is some greater purpose at work here.  He doesn’t listen to his friends’ (Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar) explanations either, trying to minimize pain or explain away the actions of God on a whim.  Job stands up in his pain and in his sorrow and say that He will trust the Lord.  It isn’t the easiest decision.  It doesn’t make everything instantly all better.  It won’t even always bring the explanations we are looking for.  But it is the Best decision we can make when we are in pain because it binds us to the One who is in charge of it all (from the stars to the hairs on your head), the One through whom all wisdom flows, and the One who has promised to be with us and never let our foot slip.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

The Cross in the wreckage of the World Trade Center on 9/11 became a symbol for faith, comfort, and hope amid the tragedy. Photo Credit:

The Cross in the wreckage of the World Trade Center on 9/11 became a symbol for faith, comfort, and hope amid the tragedy.
Photo Credit:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.