Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Posts tagged ‘Psalm’

Saturday Psalm: 35

Of David.

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
    fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler
    and rise for my help!
Draw the spear and javelin
    against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
    “I am your salvation!”

Let them be put to shame and dishonor
    who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
    who devise evil against me!
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
    with the angel of the Lord driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery,
    with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!

For without cause they hid their net for me;
    without cause they dug a pit for my life.
Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
    let him fall into it—to his destruction!

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord,
    exulting in his salvation.
10 All my bones shall say,
    “O Lord, who is like you,
delivering the poor
    from him who is too strong for him,
    the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
    they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
    my soul is bereft.
13 But I, when they were sick—
    I wore sackcloth;
    I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
    I bowed down in mourning.

15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
    they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
    tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast,
    they gnash at me with their teeth.

17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
    Rescue me from their destruction,
    my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation;
    in the mighty throng I will praise you.

19 Let not those rejoice over me
    who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
    who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace,
    but against those who are quiet in the land
    they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
    they say, “Aha, Aha!
    Our eyes have seen it!”

22 You have seen, O Lord; be not silent!
    O Lord, be not far from me!
23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
    for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,
    according to your righteousness,
    and let them not rejoice over me!
25 Let them not say in their hearts,
    “Aha, our heart’s desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26 Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
    who magnify themselves against me!

27 Let those who delight in my righteousness
    shout for joy and be glad
    and say evermore,
“Great is the Lord,
    who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
    and of your praise all the day long.

To listen to this psalm, I started with Sons of Korah with this absolutely beautiful rendition of the first 10 verses. Here’s Karl Kohlhase with a quicker tempo and the whole psalm, using, “Say to my soul, I am your deliverance” as a refrain.

The psalm starts out with a strong plea for help, for God to step in on his behalf. It’s interesting that he jumps to a supernatural plain: God is able to deliver me, and I need his help against these people who contend against me. They pursue, they seek his life, they devise evil, and instead of being caught in the fear of attack, David looks up and asks God to blow them away like chaff, to catch them in the net they laid for him…

Verse 9 anticipates even further, the rejoicing after the Lord has saved him, and verse 10 proclaims the Lord as the one who takes care of the poor and needy (it reminds me of other praises of God like Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s magnificat).

Then the psalm develops the identity of the attackers: these are former friends, people who when they were in trouble, he prayed for and grieved. Now they have turned on him, without cause. This is what is most discouraging to him. But instead of wallowing in discouragement or turning to fight them back (that’s what I’d do, I suppose), he looks up to God to sort them out. Verse 17 catches my attention not only because he turns again to ask God to deliver him, but his description is reminiscent of Daniel (only he predates Daniel’s confrontation with lions), and then I remember that he fought a lion when protecting his sheep.

Still forecasting, David ends the psalm with the attackers being put to shame, but those who delight in his righteousness will praise God. This caught my attention too. Who delights in the righteousness of another? Well, he is the king, and righteousness simply means rightness, doing what is right. Think about who doesn’t like someone committed to doing the right thing. It’s when we want to be let off the hook, or have the rules bent for us that we tempt the righteous with a bribe or a request and feel mad at them when they don’t bend. But if there are people who appreciate the commitment to doing what is right, it’s a great support. He remembers that there are those who delight in him.

But not only will these people delight in his righteousness, they will give the glory to God. Shouting for joy with a long-lasting gladness, they will say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant.” This reminds me of something I noticed once in Matthew when Jesus says to live so that others see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. They’re not to thank you or praise you: how do you do that? Well, here it’s obvious that David is crying out to God to save him in a way that only God can, so when others see it they praise the God who saves, who delights in David’s welfare. I’m going to let that sink in today, that God delights in the welfare of his servants.

I’m going to cherish that God delights in taking care of his people, and that David, in this psalm, goes all the way from being attacked and asking God to fight for him to the praise of God after God will rescue him. That’s some pretty good forecasting prayer!

All thanks and praise to God!

Saturday Psalm: 34

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

There are so many verses in this psalm that have been made into worship music! There’s a company called Seeds that has verses 10 and 18 in two tracks (7, 9) on their first album and you can listen online here. They have a video of verse 10 which is fun to show kids. Here’s a video of Steve Green singing verse 13 with kids. But here’s the whole psalm with Karl Kohlhase, using verses 1 and 2 as a refrain, and here’s Shane and Shane’s version with some interesting word choices and verse 3 for a refrain. Because I love all things Rich Mullins, I couldn’t leave out his “Sing your Praise,” although the psalm in the bridge is 113 (we’ll get there)!

This is another Psalm written in couplets of meaning. I almost hear it as a friend riffing with David, answering him back line for line as in jazz. The context of this psalm is important too: David had acted like a madman before King Abimelech, and it worked, but here he is not boasting about himself at all but praising God completely. What comes out of David in the time of testing and relief is true praise, naming God’s power and encouraging those who look to him and do right to praise him too.

I don’t know any song dedicated to verse 5 but this time it leapt out to me. “Those who look to him are radiant/and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m so sad when I see shamefaced looks. My own face burns in shame when I’ve done wrong, and realize it. (This happened recently, so it’s fresh!) Shame is focused on a human’s wrong (“oh, the humanity!”) but those who look to God focus on him. God will never act in a way that shames us, David says. God is the one, the only one, who is perfect and to look to him, to know him, to love him, clears the self-shame off my face and replaces it with relief and shining love, sometimes even his glory. (This hasn’t happened recently, but it’s still a fresh memory.) So when we do wrong, we don’t have to internalize the shame but look to him, the forgiving, loving, cleansing one, and wait for him to work all things out.

The psalm has recommendations: keep your tongue from evil, deceit (lies, gossip?); do good; seek peace and pursue it. These are how you fear the Lord, and look to him.

Then verses 15-22 reassure us of how life goes: there will be trouble, but the Lord saves those who look to him. There are many afflictions for the righteous (those who do right) but the Lord delivers him out of them all (side note: deliverance can be instant and spectacular, or long road and lesson learning, or finally ending life to bring on eternity). The last two verses caught my attention as well. It’s affliction that will slay the wicked (but in v. 19 we just heard that the Lord saves the afflicted righteous ones) and those who hate the righteous (why? if they’re doing what is right, why hate them?) will be condemned. But the Lord redeems the life of his servants and they who run to him for safety (not because they’re perfect but because he is) will not be condemned.

All thanks and praise to God!

Saturday Psalm: 33

1 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
    he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

To listen to this Psalm sung, I first recommend listening to this version by Karl Kohlhase while reading not his words but the ESV version printed here or your own favorite version on BibleGateway. (Note that Karl uses verses 1-5 as a refrain between verses 11 and 12 and again at the end.) If you’d like to try some other versions (based on this Psalm but not verse by verse), how about this one by Marty Haugen, or this by Mark Haas or these two: Blessed the People and Lord Let Your Mercy from Journey Songs Third Edition, vol. 2. Then there’s Jason Silver with this lovely version that’s very close to the text. (I like to start with a sung Psalm because, like plays were written to be seen not read, Psalms were written to be sung and heard.)

The first thing I noticed in this Psalm was the couplets. Everything said has a double in the next line that furthers the meaning. That’s the highlight of Hebrew poetry, that and chiasm which is a movement in and then out again, with parallels in subject as it moves out. I don’t see chiasm much in this psalm except for the framing verses at the beginning and the end.

The second thing I noticed was that there’s no appeal to God to save from enemies! So many of the Psalms I’ve looked at so far have this element that it’s a surprise that this one doesn’t. Of course in praising God the people are reminded that he is above all, to save those who hope in him, but it’s an indirect way of encouraging people in need, and yet when we call others (or are ourselves called) to worship the true God, we are most encouraged by him.

Then the third thing I noticed was the communal nature of the psalm. The first verse doesn’t determine that the righteous are plural, so with my usual modern sensibility I think first, am I righteous? I want to be one of the righteous. But the psalm moves from address to command and reason (how and why to praise God) and truth. Verse 8 has all the earth, and verse 12 and 13 mention nation, people, and all the children of man, but it’s the ending verses that finally impressed me.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

Our soul, help, shield, heart, for we trust, hope in you. How is it that you can use a plural possessive and a singular noun? (asks the English teacher in me) It portrays a community, so tight, so close that they have oneness although they are many. That’s what hit me in this psalm. The righteous are a group of those who wait for the Lord, trust in  (our help and shield) his holy name, depend on his steadfast love while they hope in him. It’s so compelling, not just to say, “I want to be that,” but to say, “Yes, that’s where I belong. Those people are my people.”

All thanks and praise to God!

Saturday Psalm: 32

A Maskil of David.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

In college I used to sing verse 7; this morning I found a short film based on verse 8; here’s Karl Kohlhase with a beautiful version of the whole psalm, using the first verse as a refrain; here’s a quieter version with Sons of Korah; and here’s a gorgeous version with a bit of introduction by Steve Bell.

Looking at this psalm anew, I am reminded to pause when I read Selah, and think a bit before moving on. My friend Rose posted a quote from Mark Twain on Facebook this  morning: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything,” and it took a Selah pause to let that sink in. But I think it’s exactly the freedom that the second verse is talking about when it says there is no deceit in the spirit of the one who is forgiven.

After proclaiming that there is happiness in being forgiven, covered, wrongs not counted as iniquity, David goes into the personal account of his pain when he kept silent. Bones wasting away, groaning all day long, strength dried up; have you ever felt that? Here again I feel David has suffered more deeply than I although I have an idea of this feeling.

I appreciate the Selah. After pausing to think on the pain, we turn to the acknowledgement of sin, the uncovering of iniquity. “I did this, and it was wrong. Please forgive me,” is such a great formula for acknowledging sin! David uses a particular phrase in the end of verse 5: you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Not that the sin didn’t happen but the wrongness of it is forgiven. That is how the freedom comes: in full acknowledgement that wrong was done and yet that wrong can be fixed, can be overcome, can be forgiven by love. Has that happened to you? I think it’s very important that the detail of what I did wrong is spelled out to the person I’m asking to forgive me. I can say I’m sorry and yet not be sure that I’m talking about what hurt the other. Also, when I say what I did that was hurtful, the other can trust that I’ve thought about it from both sides. Genuine care can then flow back and forth and love is encouraged.

Therefore, because genuine repentance brings freedom of conscience and lightness of heart, restoring relationship, let the ones who seek God pray to him asap. When you’ve done wrong, be quick to repent! Then the problems that come (because the sin happened, or because others sin, or just because there are difficulties in this life) are mitigated by the relationship with God: he is my hiding place, he preserves me and delivers me. The short film (above) started with the word “ready” and touched off a chord in me that loves this song sung by Rich Mullins.

The last section of the psalm has God talking: I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go and counsel you with my eye on you! This would be creepy if the relationship isn’t right with God, but the next verse speaks to that also: don’t be like an animal that has to be harnessed in order to stay nearby: stay near to God willingly! Verse 10: “Many sorrows…and steadfast love…” it’s not that those who love the Lord don’t have sorrows but that they also have the surrounding love of God through the pain. So be glad and rejoice in the Lord, David says, for through his forgiveness and leading you are upright in heart!

All thanks and praise to God!

Saturday Psalm: 31

I missed the daily Psalm reflection I did in April, so this morning I thought I would alliterate and look at another.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
    but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!
17 Lord, let me not be put to shame,
    for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
    let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
    which speak insolently against the righteous
    in pride and contempt.

19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
    from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
    from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
    for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
    when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
    “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
    when I cried to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
    The Lord preserves the faithful
    but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

It’s good to hear the Psalms sung. When I read them, they are often just words that I have to read aloud or think hard about, but somehow singing them (even if translated or condensed) opens up the meaning in a new way. Here’s a very much abbreviated version by John Michael Talbot and here’s Karl Kohlhase with a more lengthy version. I like how the former is a worship song that many can sing, and I like how the latter is more true to the psalm but makes it even more immediate.

A note about verse 6: I like how Karl Kohlhase translates it, “I hate the worship of idols” rather than hating those who worship idols. It’s hard for us to read the hatred of enemies when Jesus taught that God wants us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. But that’s a sort of better than perfect goal, right? Who can do that? On the other hand we look at David here and elsewhere saying he hates those who don’t fear God. I have come to wonder if the word hate has changed meaning over time. In reading the word in the Old Testament it sounds more like avoid, stay away from, don’t imitate, ignore (which can also be harsh, but not as active as angry hate that means harm).

I’m not really sure if this psalm is working on chiasm principles (movement in and then paralleling back out again) but there’s a definite change in verses 9-13. David starts out affirming God as his refuge and asking for that safety. The refuge even delivers him from a net he is caught in, and verse 5 affirms God’s redemption so that when verse 6 comes along to the hating of idols and ends with trust in the Lord, it is in contrast: the Lord is a mighty refuge who saves even those caught in a net, whereas other idols are worthless. Then verses 7&8 rejoice in the steadfast love of the Lord who has known his distress and delivered him.

Now, in verse 9 after all the rehearsing and rejoicing in the past work of his refuge, David moves to the plea for grace because he is in distress again. What distress! Eye wasted from grief, soul and body also; life spent in sorrow and sighing, strength fails because of iniquity (wrongdoing, sin)—that’s the personal side of things. Enemies reproach him, especially the neighbors, and acquaintances dread him; even people in the street flee! He hears how they plot to take his life. This is really low. He feels he has done wrong and he regrets it, others know what’s wrong and they avoid him (just like he avoids those who worship worthless idols?) and life is miserable. But then:

The change (if this is a chiasm, it’s the turning back out again) comes in verse 14: “But I trust in you, O Lord…” Don’t let me be put to shame, but stop the lying lips, he requests, and then verse 19 returns to praising God for his works of goodness and deliverance in the past. He ends the psalm with a turning outward to many people: “Love the Lord, all you his saints! … Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” That’s what I needed to hear today.

All thanks and praise to God!

PoMo: Psalm 30

April is poetry month. I’ve been celebrating by reflecting on a psalm a day. Now that I’ve come to the last day of the month, shall I continue to reflect on a psalm a day? Please leave a comment if you’d like me to or if you have a suggestion for something else. Thanks!

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
    you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
    I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Here are the Shiyr Poets with a beautiful (long) version of this psalm, and here’s Elizabeth Enalls with the Psalms Project and lyrics closer to the psalm, and here’s Karl Kohlhase with verses 11 and 12 as a refrain (he dedicates the video to all suffering from sadness and depression).

This psalm is very poetic with couplets where the meaning of each line is either the same in the next line with different words or it is the opposite in the next line, as we see in verse 5. It’s interesting that this psalm is noted as a psalm of dedication of the temple so we see the king of Israel, song-poet David, writing this deeply personal song for others to sing when the temple is ready to be dedicated. I guess because he is the king and a poet, he can boldly sing his own experiences and trust that they are to some extent universal. But for the dedication ceremony, I think verse 4 is most powerful, calling all the saints (sinners-now-saints as the Shiyr poets put it) to praise God.

Verse 5 is the stand alone, stand out verse of this psalm that most people know if they are familiar with this psalm at all. I think it aptly follows verse 4 calling saints to praise God and give him thanks because his wrath (anger against sin) is momentary but his love (favor towards us) is forever.

I have made oblique references this month to struggles that the study of Psalms is helping me with. As we see David face his trials and adversaries with an open heart and loud cry to God, I am encouraged to do likewise, and have fought fear time and again. The unknown has not been resolved, the future I fear has not (yet) come to pass, and yet God has allowed me through this psalm reading to live day by day and affirm that all is well. He who has seen me through so much will continue to guide and guard my life. I can turn to him moment by moment and check in that I am doing what he wants—that I am doing what is right. How thankful I am for this practice of writing about and posting a psalm a day.

All thanks and praise to God!

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!

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!

PoMo: Psalm 27

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!