Day 180: Psalms 139-144; Search My Heart

Today’s reading is a return to the laments of King David.  Though only one of them (Psalm 142) has a specific situation attached to it, they all exhibit the crying out of a person in distress.  One of my favorite Psalms of today is Psalm 139.  This Psalm is considered to be a Psalm of lament, but I see it as more than just lamenting in that as David cries out to the Lord he is also confessing his trust and belief in a God that is vastly more powerful and wise than the situation that he finds himself in now.  I invite you to re-read the words of this Psalm:

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
    O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
    your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Check out the song Search My Heart from Hillsongs, based on this psalm.

We often find ourselves in situations that we cannot handle and do not see any way out of.  Sometimes we sin for reasons that we don’t understand at all.  This leads us deeper into a pit of despair and self-doubt.  Take comfort in knowing that God is greater than any situation that you will encounter.  Take comfort in knowing that God knows you heart.  He formed and created you.  He knew you before you even existed.  And, as Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Indeed He has provided a way for us in Jesus Christ, the true way out of sin and temptation.  That isn’t to say that life will be perfect here and now, but we can live in the assurance that our sins have been bought and paid for in Christ’s blood.  We know that we are not enduring anything that Christ hasn’t, and that His Spirit is with us each and every day strengthening and guiding us along the way.  And He will indeed lead us in the way everlasting!

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: ***Please Note: I do not endorse this website, but simply give credit for the picture***

Natural Disasters
Photo Credit:
***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 170: Psalms 85-89; The Name of the Lord

The Lord Passes before Moses Photo Credit:

The Lord Passes before Moses
Photo Credit:

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

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

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

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

The Psalms & God A Call to Prayer Photo credit:

The Psalms & God
A Call to Prayer
Photo credit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 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 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 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 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
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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.