Skip to main content

Psalms 5-8



The first three verses of Psalm 5 are ones I have often used to begin the day….
Give ear to my words, O Lord; 
give heed to my sighing. 
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
There is even a lovely modern tune to which these words are sung that I learned many years ago but never hear in church anymore.
However, this psalm shows us something common with many of the psalms. While there are certain parts of each psalm that provide perfect expression for our own devotion today, there are, in these same psalms, parts with which we do not identify. I find this to be the case in Psalm 5. After asking the Lord to hear him in the first three verses, the psalmist, goes on to speak in the next three verses about how wicked other people are. (By the way, this psalm is attributed to David, but we cannot be sure that he wrote it since the attribution of particular psalms to particular people was made long after their lifetimes.) Regardless, of who wrote this psalm, I do not think any Christian can read these words without thinking that he or she (at one time or another) might actually be like one of these wicked people the psalmist describes. After all, have we not, even as Christians, sometimes been boastful or deceitful?
The Psalmist, on the other hand, draws a contrast between himself and these wicked people….
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
Will enter your house…
The Christian, in reading and/or praying this psalm, cannot draw this contrast between himself and the wicked without realizing that it is only Christ, through his perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the dead, who makes the Christian anything but wicked.
This is not to say that the psalmists do not ever recognize their own sin. They do, and we have an example of this recognition in Psalm 6. However, in this psalm there is another line that Christians are liable to stumble over….
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?
In this verse we see reflected the same belief articulated in the book of Job and throughout most of the Hebrew Scriptures. The ancient Jews, for the most part, did not believe in any sort of afterlife. At least, they did not believe in such until the time of Jesus, when we see the Pharisees holding to a belief in the resurrection of the dead, and the Sadducees holding to the old unbelief in any sort of afterlife. That is why the latter are sad, you see?
Thus, we have not even gotten through the first section of the psalms without encountering words that a Christian cannot say with any sort of concurrence or assent at all. It makes one wonder what thoughts have gone through the minds of Christians who have vocalized the Psalms in worship over the last two thousand years when they come to verses like this.
In Psalm 7, we encounter, once again, a type of self-righteousness that should be alien to Christian devotion. However, as C. S. Lewis points out in Reflections on the Psalms we must make a distinction between self-righteousness and being in the right. The first is always a delusion. However, any of us, at one particular moment in time, may be right about one particular issue. Lewis writes,
We need therefore by no means assume that the Psalmists are deceived or lying when they assert that, as against their particular enemies at some particular moment, they are completely in the right. Their voices while they say so may grate harshly on our ear and suggest to us that they are unamiable people. But that is another matter. And to be wronged does not commonly make people amiable.
But of course the fatal confusion between being in the right and being righteous soon falls upon them.
Psalm 8, on the other hand, fairly demands to be sung by every Christian. It is no wonder that the early Christians saw this psalm as a messianic prophecy. For Christ was the one, par excellence, who was, for a time, made a little lower than the angels, and who now is crowned with glory and honor.
Thus, in the course of just four psalms, we have found place to join in with the ancient Jewish devotion, and points at which we must pause and consider the different position and new knowledge in which the Christian stands. In either case, whether we can join in singing the psalm, or are forced to pause in our devotion, we are given much food for thought.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Mentoring

The first of four posts by yours truly is now up on the Next Leadership Blog. Check it out by clicking here: Mentoring.

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.


Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....


Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....


C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity


Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday (http://wesroberts.typepad.com/) got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…