Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

PoMo: Psalm 29

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Join me?

A Psalm of David.

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Here’s My Soul Among Lions with their kickstarter video (that means they haven’t yet raised all the money to record an album, but it’s a sweet video with kids), and here’s Karl Kohlhase with a hymn-like melody with words closer to our text.

I’m writing this morning before church starts, so I’m just linking two versions and thinking about a short reflection. The VOICE of the Lord is very much highlighted in this psalm, and it comes right after a psalm asking God to hear, to speak. It might be odd to people who think of God as invisible, ignorable, absent, silent to read this psalm. What’s he talking about?

The psalm starts with a four paralleled call to ascribe to the Lord glory, and then he does so by talking about the voice of the Lord. Obviously this voice of the Lord is not a human voice and yet if humans are made in God’s image there is a likeness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters brings the biblically literate reader to the second verse of Genesis, where the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the waters as the Lord spoke creation into being. From there the psalm continues giving pictures of how God’s voice is powerful. In light of the power of the Lord, the psalm ends with the prayer to give strength to his people, to bless them with peace.

All thanks and praise to God!

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PoMo: Psalm 28

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Join me?

Of David.

To you, O Lord, I call;
    my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
    I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
    when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
    toward your most holy sanctuary.

Do not drag me off with the wicked,
    with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
    while evil is in their hearts.
Give to them according to their work
    and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
    render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord
    or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.

Blessed be the Lord!
    For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
    and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;
    he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
    Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Let’s start with this live recording from My Soul Among Lions and then try this from Benjamin Ady with the Psalms Project, or this from Karl Kohlhase.

Have you ever felt that God was silent? Not that he always talks to you like a person in the room, but your normal feeling of his presence is gone, or you read the Bible and nothing stands out to you. In the beginning of this psalm David is crying out for God to hear him, to respond and not be silent because if he is silent David feels he will die! The good side of going through this feeling is that you realize your need of God and your appreciation of his work in your life. It’s comforting to know that most people feel like this at some point, and that the end of the feeling of alone-ness is usually a learning experience, although I would say not the same lesson for everyone.

David goes on to talk about neighbors who speak peaceably with each other but secretly hate each other. This is so common we have a term for it today: frenemies. But David asks God to give them justice because of their disregard for God (not just their attack on others but their disobedience to God who directs us to love our neighbors).

After naming the problem, David goes on to bless the Lord. Is it that he has given the problem over to the Lord to deal with that lightens his spirits? Because now he returns to exulting in the Lord, to announcing the Lord’s refuge and strength, a saving help for his people. The last line, “be their shepherd and carry them forever” is exactly what God is always saying he wants to do.

All thanks and praise to God!

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Join me?

Of David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

The positive and joyful recording of this psalm by Karl Kohlhase is great, although the picture is odd! (I think it’s supposed to be an angel army protecting the man who is reading God’s word.) Here’s Luke Lynass with the Psalms Project in a more meditative melody. Here’s a worship song by Jason Silver, and here’s Shane and Shane.

Once again my day interrupted my writing and this didn’t get finished until evening. In the between time, we have had an angst ridden day (the teenager wondering what her life is going to be) and a mother-daughter self defense class. That was interesting, for here we see in the psalm evildoers arising and David will not fear, but be confident. It’s good to know self-defense, to be prepared and have ideas of what to do (don’t get me wrong) but that is of secondary importance to a knowledge of God, seeking God in his glory, yearning to be with him. It reminds me of my favorite Rich Mullins song! The teen doesn’t know what will happen after graduation, the homemaker doesn’t know where her family will move, the mom doesn’t even know what to cook for dinner, but all alike can wait upon the Lord. It is always right to seek him in the confidence that he cares.

All thanks and praise to God!

PoMo: Psalm 26

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Join me?

Of David.

Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in your faithfulness.

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
    nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
    and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence
    and go around your altar, O Lord,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
    and telling all your wondrous deeds.

Lord, I love the habitation of your house
    and the place where your glory dwells.
Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
    nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are evil devices,
    and whose right hands are full of bribes.

11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
    redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
    in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

Let’s start with this video of My Soul Among Lions singing in a silo, and using the first verse as a refrain. Here’s Karl Kohlhase with a very nice musical version that’s closer to the text (with less rhyming), here’s Jamie Soles using the words from the Geneva Psalter (great rhymes!) and his own melody, and here’s a rock version by Nathan Hitchcock with Phil Keaggy on guitar which I think highlights the urgency of the psalm.

In turning to think of the content of this psalm, I watched a chapel talk from Wheaton College (it starts with a commercial) which you can access here. The commercial was a good choice, because it was an appeal for people to stop living disparate lives but join each other for a meal (in the apartment hallway) and I think David is proclaiming his integrity not in terms of being better than others but in doing what is right (to others) because he loves the Lord, lives as it were in the house of the Lord. Verse 10’s mention of evil devices in people’s hands immediately made me think of my iPhone: not that I use it as weapon for evil (which must have been David’s reference, right?) but that, as the commercial demonstrated, it distracts me from people who are present, and perhaps needy of my attention.

I am thankful for this psalm which asks God to vindicate (prove right) the godly who trust in him, refuse to be swept away but walk in his ways, seek the Lord’s place where glory dwells, and praise him in the assembly. I don’t have the courage to say all that David says about being steadfast and perfect in integrity, but I feel my reaction is a call to wash my hands in innocence (turn from what I am convicted is wrong) and reorder my affections.

All thanks and praise to God!

PoMo: Psalm 25

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Join me?

Of David.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    let me not be put to shame;
    let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
    they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
    Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
    and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.

19 Consider how many are my foes,
    and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
    Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
    for I wait for you.

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
    out of all his troubles.

We are back to a begging psalm with this one, and it’s a good one for content (again, couplets of content are the poetry of the Psalms). David starts with the statement that he lifts his soul to and trusts in God and follows with the request that God won’t let him be put to shame, triumphed over by enemies. He comes back to that in the last verses also, but in the middle he spends time detailing his relationship with God in a prayer that we can imitate: Lead me and teach me, God of my salvation, remember your mercy and steadfast love, not my sins or my transgressions. (now chiasm: coming back out to the former content) God instructs sinners because God is good; he leads the humble in what is right (God’s paths are righteousness and goodness). Then again, pardon my guilt, and back to God’s leading, verses 12-14, as friendship for those who fear him. Then verses 15-20 are more compelling about David’s state, needing rescue from many foes, lonely and afflicted, eyes toward the Lord taking refuge in him. Finally a plea for blessing for himself preservation and for Israel redeemed from all trouble.

Today I started with commentary but here’s Karl Kohlhase’s beautiful version, and here’s Graham Kendrick in concert and here’s Maddie Michaelson for the Psalms Project. They’re all beautiful, and I was dancing along to Graham Kendrick’s while making coffee. I hope your day is blessed by the example of David in Psalm 25.

All thanks and praise to God!

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Join me?

A Psalm of David.

1 The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
    and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And lift them up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory! Selah

This was another psalm that I memorized in elementary school days. Its couplets (of meaning, not rhyme) are fun and its meter (I memorized in KJV but this ESV is similar) lends itself to being read (or recited) aloud. Try it?

I thought that I knew a tune to this psalm; that I had sung it in my memorizing days, but perhaps it only was the meter that carried me through because I found that all my searching was dissatisfying and I didn’t find what I thought I knew. However, there was one recording that was really lovely, paired with scenes from Jerusalem (I assume) and you can click here to watch it. I don’t know why even Karl Kohlhase’s recording was disappointing to me, so perhaps I should recite Psalm 24 all day and see if it morphs into music. Oh, it’s in the Messiah! (Yes, that explains why other versions just weren’t…Handel!)

This psalm is basically saying two things: God owns everything and everyone because he made it and you approach God in cleanness and purity. (how? well, that’s why we start every worship service with confession and forgiveness, why Jesus said to forgive others before you pray so that God will forgive you and hear you: it’s not that we are always clean and pure but that we are always washing our hearts before God)

That’s the first half of the psalm, and the second is a joyous command to celebrate the Lord of Glory. Lift up the heads of gates and doors? Is that like the portcullis being lifted? Or is it like my own head being lifted in hope, in joy? As a child, I thought David was personifying the gates: imagine gates with faces lifted up to welcome the King arriving. Then I thought it was about the people at the gate who cheer. Now I think it is my own heart, the gates to my heart being clear and clean and welcoming God at work in me.

All thanks and praise to God!

 

PoMo: Psalm 23

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a Psalm a day. Join me?

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.[g]

Musical renditions for Psalm 23 abound! Did you attend a church that sang some yesterday? Ours did, and the choral anthem and instrumental offertory are here. We also sang The King of Love my Shepherd Is, and The Lord’s My Shepherd, and ended with Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us, so we enjoyed Psalm 23 quite a bit. Here’s some more for your listening options: Karl Kohlhase’s Psalm 23 new musical setting, My Soul Among Lions here, and here’s a straightforward version sung by Shane and Shane. Great explanation of the green pastures here (it’s short but powerful).

Today is also the Feast of St. George, which I know because I led a class reading the first book of Edmund Spenser’s Faierie Queene (which is distractingly beautiful poetry). The knight who turns out to be St. George doesn’t know who he is at the beginning and he is tempted away from truth and makes mistakes and is rescued by Knight (to be king) Arthur and even when he fights the dragon he falls, twice, at night, into some balm by the grace of God and rises to conquer the dragon just as it opens its mouth to eat him! It occurred to me providentially that this day of St. George and Psalm 23 is worth juxtaposing. When I look again at Psalm 23 from George’s story, I realize that the praise of God’s restoration assumes but doesn’t mention that the soul needs restoring, the confused need guiding in right paths, the valley is frightening and the enemies are all around.

Why do we love this psalm so? It takes for granted that we are needy and it reminds us of the shepherd’s constant care, even luxurious care in the face of enemies. The shepherd’s rod and staff (the rod of correction and the staff of restoration) comfort me because they keep me going the right way, and the correction is not punishment but training, helpful for my good. A table set for me to eat although enemies surround me is marvelous: who experiences this? Shepherds anoint their sheep with oil so that bugs do not enter their noses, so the anointing oil is protective. But the psalm culminates in a future promise: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Safety and help now, and a future dwelling in goodness.

All thanks and praise to God!