Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Posts tagged ‘singing’

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!

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 19

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a Psalm a day. Sometime I might post a poem of my own. Join me?

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Here’s Karl Kohlhase again with a beautiful musical setting to this psalm. He gives the lyrics on the picture, and his translation is more clear in the first verses than the ESV translation I’ve printed here, where you’re not quite sure what verse 2 and 3 are referring to, since the subject is unclear, but verses 1-6 are all looking at the heavens, the sky, the lights that shine on us. Then verses 7-11 turn from nature’s witness of God as creator to his special revelation to his people in the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear of the Lord, the rules: all aspects of relationship with God.

I grew up with a sung version of this portion of Psalm 19:7-11 (click here) that I loved to sing, mostly because of the refrain about gold and honey! But let’s look further: Why the Law converts the soul is well explained here. First the law has to tell us what we’ve done wrong before the good news of forgiveness is the power to change us. It’s actually helpful to know what I’ve done wrong before someone slams into me with their anger and I’m feeling abused and misjudged (which might be the case). The other help of the law is to show us what good is; how best to relate to others, as well as what not to do. There was a time when I was struggling with house envy, really wishing I had someone else’s house, and then the commandment about not coveting a neighbor’s house came to mind as a reminder and I literally felt revival of soul as I submitted to the urging not to covet, and the temptation to envy other people’s houses left me and has never returned.

“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” I once heard that memorizing scripture helps restore brain function, so I tried it by memorizing 1 John. It was not a scientific study to confirm what I’d heard but a return to the practice of scripture memory that started in those childhood years in Christian school where we not only learned the song above but also many scriptures (whole psalms and scattered other verses were chosen for us all to learn together).  Apart from brain restoration, I think the point here is that where wisdom usually comes from knowledge and then understanding and then life practice that makes one wise, the simple who don’t know much can, by knowing God’s word, be wise without much knowledge (as in schooling). It follows the same way with the precepts of the Lord, and the commandments: they rejoice the heart that is tired and uncertain and lighten the eyes that see no good thing around them.

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.” There’s such a funny thing about fear: we almost always are told not to fear. Angels appear and always the first words they have to say are “fear not.” So we think of fear as a bad thing. Misplaced fear always is, and I cling to a verse in 1 John (memory work is good for us!) when I feel fear coming at me to overwhelm me: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (4:18) But if I remember two verses earlier in 1 John, that God is love, and read Psalm 19:9 as the fear of God who is love is clean, then I begin to see a right fear, not based on punishment but more a respectful right response to the powerful one who rightly loves and forgives and restores his erring children. C.S. Lewis describes Aslan: “People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.” Terrible because we are not yet fully cured! (Remember Psalm 18’s “to the — he shows himself —?” Lewis has a section when the kids first hear the name Aslan: “Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”)

Back to Psalm 19: after verses 1-6 telling how all creation points to God, and verses 7-11 rejoicing in how God’s revelation to his people restores their full humanity, the psalm turns to supplication. Who can know hidden faults? Forgive me. Keep me from presumption, and then I will be blameless of great sin (pride). Instead let the thoughts I think and the words I say be ones that please God who is my rock and my redeemer!

Studying the full psalm reminds me of another song I loved in my youth, this by the Imperials. The stars proclaim his handiwork, the Bible tells his story, but until I pray, until I meet him face to face as it were, what is that to me? When I have met him, seen the Good and Terrible Lion of Judah (nod to Lewis) then he becomes my refuge and my treasure, my counselor, my king, my strength and my song.

All thanks and praise to God!

PoMo: Psalm 11

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a Psalm a day. Sometime I might post a poem of my own. Join me?

To the choirmaster. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
    they have fitted their arrow to the string
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord‘s throne is in heaven;
    his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
    fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
    the upright shall behold his face.

This poetry is a simple answer to temptation. The first part of verse 1 announces that it is about taking refuge in the Lord, and then the rest of verse 1 to verse 3 are the temptation to fear in a despairing way. The name for this is acedia and it produces a kind of sloth, laziness that has no hope. The logic sounds right: the wicked are gaining the upper hand in society; they are shooting the righteous in the back. But the answer in verses 4-7 is not only based on the logic of what is going on in this world but that the Lord is IN! His temple and his throne metaphorically speak of the heart and the actions where he reigns supreme. He sees and he tests people; he tests the righteous (to prove them righteous?) but punishes the wicked (again, a call for him to punish the wicked based on the past that David knows—the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah). So to the fear of attack, David here responds that the Lord is his refuge, remembering that God’s power is over all and his nature is both to shield the righteous who trust in him when attacked and to stop the wicked.

Those are my thoughts. Here’s another sermon if you have a half hour to listen to more; I will be listening to it later today. It’s title is “How to Pray When You Feel Like Giving Up.”  For a beautiful sung version, try this one by Karl Kohlhase which is very singable and uses the first verse as a refrain or this one by Nathan Clark George which is shorter and sounds more Celtic, or this one by My Soul Among Lions which has a more country sound.

I’m thankful for the Psalms that we’ve been going through, for God’s provision of his word and the way that it doesn’t sugar-coat the truth. So many times the battle is within my own mind to give in to fear and sit around in acedia, but when I remember to praise the Lord because he is always worthy of praise, or to look around me for something (anything) to be grateful for, then I am restored to joy and hope. It was Ann Voskamp’s blog, aholyexperience.com which first showed me the power of gratitude while I was still grieving the death of my mom, and her book One Thousand Gifts made an impact on many. Now I am adding to that a morning song (or three).

All thanks and praise to God!

PoMo: Psalm 9

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a Psalm a day. Sometime I might post a poem of my own. Join me?

To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
    they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
    you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
    you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
    their cities you rooted out;
    the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
    he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
    Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
    he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
    See my affliction from those who hate me,
    O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
    that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
    I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
    in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
    all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
    Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

This is a longer Psalm and I have less time for reflection today, but I found a lovely recording of it, where the first two verses serve as a chorus between stanzas (the psalm is broken up into three stanzas with the refrain framing each); you can find it here.

Notice the parallel poetry this psalm is replete with: in the first two verses the verbs build. I will give thanks/I will recount; I will be glad/I will sing praise. Then he recounts what God has done, when the enemies turn back: you have upheld my cause/you have judged justly/you have rebuked nations/you have made wicked perish/you have erased their name. But then he turns to declaring God’s goodness:

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
    he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

So then the command is to sing the praise of this God who is just and right and takes care of the oppressed and troubled who know his name and trust him. These are the middle lines of the psalm and the most important. From there the psalm works a bit as a chiasm, with lines reflecting the former ones as if there were a mirror between the verses above.

I like how the singer repeated the strong determination to give thanks and praise to God in the first two verses even if the text doesn’t do that but ends with the plea for God to let people know they are only people (that God is God)!

All thanks and praise to God!

PoMo: Psalm 5

April is poetry month. I’m celebrating by reflecting on a Psalm a day. Sometime I might post a poem of my own. Join me?

To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
    in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies;
    make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
    their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
    they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
    let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
    for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield.

For a YouTube version of the first three verses sung and with beautiful pictures, click here. Notice that the words “will I direct my prayer” substitute for “I prepare a sacrifice” which means that the translation varies between the two meanings. Preparing a sacrifice was a certain type of praying; it conveys a stronger urgency than we usually feel today, but is worth thinking about. Perhaps, on the other hand, for some of us an early morning prayer session is a sacrifice of sleep, and of getting busy. What do you think?

Having sung the opening, we turn to the rest of the Psalm, which is interesting (Why didn’t they include it in the YouTube version?!) with verses 4-6 proclaiming how God hates evil: boastful, liars, bloodthirsty, and deceitful are particularly pointed out among those who do not delight the Lord. Verses 7 and 8 are the middle of the poem, the crux of the matter, if you will, where David proclaims his purpose: “But I” by God’s love, will enter his house, will fear him, will look to him (beg) for guidance, walk in his ways. So then in verses 9 and 10 he speaks the liars, flatterers, and false counsellors who have rebelled against God. (By the way, when these vitriolic passages seem a bit much to me, I remember that God is above us, and as a father would hear his young son tell him to wipe out all his bullies but the father would think from an adult perspective what to do with his son’s tormentors, so God the Father will have a perspective above ours but be able to listen to ours lovingly and understand.) Then verses 11 and 12 end with a blessing for the righteous, for those who take refuge in God.

Notice that the righteous are characterized by their lack of power (take refuge in God) and by their love (for God’s name) but of course the love for his name means they will not lie or boast, be bloodthirsty or deceitful. Righteousness starts with doing what is right according to God’s word, and it is motivated by love for God, a loving fear of him, if you will (perhaps we can use the word respect for that loving fear?).

Because I am curious about singing the whole Psalm, I looked it up in the Psalter hymnal which has it in this rhyming 5 verse hymn, the music and first verse can be heard here:

1 Hear, O Lord, my urgent prayer as I come to seek your care. With each morning light I raise voice and heart in prayer and praise.

2 You do not delight in sin or in tales that liars spin. Haughty ones you will defeat with all those who love deceit.

3 By your mercy and your grace I will come before your face. Fearing foes, I bow to pray: lead me, Lord, make straight my way.

4 Save me from deceitful ways; liars’ throats are open graves. Make them bear their guilt, O Lord, for by choice they spurn your word.

5 Let those trusting you sing praise; grant them joy to fill their days. Those who always seek the right are protected by your might.

Singing through my day, I hope: All thanks and praise to God!