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 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.