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 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!