There is so much to think about in every psalm, let alone four in one gulp. Taking any four psalms together covers a lot of theological, spiritual, and emotional territory. However, let us begin with the emotional today. One thing I love about the psalms is the honesty of the psalmists. The psalms express feelings that most all of us have or will experience at one time or another. Psalm 13 begins…
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
We have probably all had the feeling of being forgotten by God, have we not? Yet, God does not really forget us. It is only because God holds us in mind that we have existence at all. Furthermore, the psalmist works out these feelings of abandonment in the process of writing down his thoughts. The psalmist, in this case David, moves from asking “How long?” to asking God to consider him, and to give light to his eyes. Then he reminds the Lord that he has put his trust in God’s steadfast love. Then David concludes with a confession of faith….
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Perhaps if we would write out our prayers from time to time, it would help us work through our difficult emotions.
Psalm 14 also has an honesty and authenticity about it. Here David expresses his consternation over those who say there is no God. As he looks around himself, David feels like everyone has gone astray. Certainly, we too have times when we feel like we are the only ones serving the Lord. Yet, once again, by writing out his prayer, David works through this problematic emotion. He comes back to the point of remembering that despite his circumstances, seemingly surrounded by unbelievers on every side, “God is with the company of the righteous.” The Lord is the refuge of the poor.
In Psalm 15, David asks an important question: “O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” This reveals a common feature of the Psalms: parallelism. Often, a question or statement is repeated in a slightly different way in the next line. Whereas rhyme does not translate from one language to another, parallelism is a poetic feature that transcends language.
David’s answer to this important question is that to abide in God’s tent (that is the tabernacle) or to dwell on his holy hill (Mount Zion):
· One must be blameless
· Do what is right
· Speak the truth
· Not slander
· Do no evil to one’s friends
· Not take up a reproach against one’s neighbors
· Despise the wicked
· Honor those who fear the Lord
· Stand by one’s oath even when it hurts
· Not lend money at interest
· Not take a bribe against the innocent.
David says, “Those who do these things shall never be moved.” However, the psalm begs the question: “Who fulfills all these conditions?” The only answer I can come up with is: Jesus the Messiah. He is the only blameless person. Yet, even Jesus does not fulfill one of these conditions of David for dwelling on God’s holy hill. Jesus does not despise the wicked. Rather, he loved the wicked so much that he gave his life for them on another hill—Mount Calvary.
Psalm 16 is one of the many psalms in which David asks the Lord for protection. Considering his embattled life, it is not surprising that this would be a frequent feature of David’s prayers. Furthermore, the Psalms reveal that we can talk to God about anything we need.
This psalm ends on a high note, one of my favorite expressions in all of the psalms….
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
In your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
If we want to find joy, if we want to experience pleasure forevermore, the place to seek it is in God. The Lord is not a killjoy. Rather, God is the one who created joy, who created pleasure, and who longs to give it to us, if we would seek it in him.