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 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 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 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 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 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.

Prayer

Prayer

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 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: www.yourbibleverses.net

Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water…
Photo Credit: www.yourbibleverses.net

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: www.baptistmissionarywomen.blogspot.com

Psalm 37:5
Commit your way to the Lord
Photo Credit: www.baptistmissionarywomen.blogspot.com

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: www.dailylifeverse.com

Psalm 37:5
Commit Your Way to the Lord
Photo Credit: www.dailylifeverse.com