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Showing posts from June, 2014

Psalms 109-112

Psalm 109 is, perhaps, not the best place to begin reading the Psalms after a break. This psalm is full of that hatred of one’s enemy that we have already seen elsewhere in the Psalms. C. S. Lewis notes rightly that, “the spirit of hatred which strikes us in the face is like the heat from a furnace mouth.” He suggests that Psalm 109 is perhaps the supreme example of this hatred in the Psalms.
The poet prays that an ungodly man may rule over his enemy and that “Satan” may stand at his right hand (5). This probably does not mean what a Christian reader naturally supposes. The “Satan” is an accuser, perhaps an informer. When the enemy is tried, let him be convicted and sentenced, “and let his prayer be turned into sin” (6). This again means, I think, not his prayers to God, but his supplications to a human judge, which are to make things all the hotter for him (double the sentence because he begged for it to be halved). May his days be few, may his job be given to someone else (7). When h…

Psalms 105-108

Psalm 105 offers a review of Israel’s history from the Torah and God’s faithfulness to his people. It made me wonder: what would such a review of my own spiritual journey look like if I wrote it up in the form of a psalm? Would I see evidence of God’s faithfulness, goodness, and love at many points along the way?
Psalm 106 offers a similar review of Israelite history, but this time the psalmist focuses more on Israel’s unfaithfulness. The psalmist concludes with the thought that God showed compassion to Israel anyway. Based upon this review of Israel’s history, the psalmist makes bold to ask the Lord to gather his people from among the nations where they are scattered so that they may declare his praises. Obviously, this psalm was written from exile. It makes me wonder: what might we boldly ask the Lord to do in our lives today, based upon his faithfulness and compassion to us in the past?
With Psalm 107, we move into Book V of the Psalms. This is a psalm of thanksgiving, but it is also…

Psalms 101-104

Out of these four psalms, 103 is my favorite. However, it hardly needs comment. The Psalm simply invites us to steep ourselves in the steadfast love of the Lord that is from everlasting to everlasting.
Psalm 104 obviously fascinated C. S. Lewis more than most of the other psalms. I say this because he writes more about Psalm 104 than practically any other psalm in his Reflections on the Psalms….
But of course the doctrine of Creation leaves Nature full of manifestations which show the presence of God, and created energies which serve Him. The light is His garment, the thing we partially see Him through (104, 2), the thunder can be His voice (29, 3-5). He dwells in the dark thundercloud (18, 11), the eruption of a volcano comes in answer to His touch (104, 32). The world is full of his emissaries and executors. He makes winds His messengers and flames His servants (104, 4), rides upon cherubim (18, 10), commands the army of angels.
All this is of course in one way very close to Paganism. …

Psalms 97-100

Psalm 100 is the shortest of the four psalms in our reading for today, but for me at least, it is the most inspiring, and always has been.
The psalmist begins by calling on all the earth to make a joyful noise to the Lord. The lover of God is never content to praise him alone, but calls others to praise him as well. In fact, simply calling on other humans to praise God is not enough. If we love God, we want all of creation to praise him.
Of course, I often think that other creatures of God praise him better than humans do, or at least better than I do. Right now, I am enjoying various birdsongs that are filtering through my open window. I tend to think that they are praising God perfectly, given their resources for praise. I often think that trees praise God better than I do. Some of them are so straight and perfect and true, the way I would like to be.
It is significant that the psalmist calls on all the earth to make a joyful noise to the earth. Happiness cannot be commaneded because i…

Psalms 93-96

O sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1
This one verse, out of the four psalms I read today, spoke to me most profoundly. The psalmist invites us to sing to the Lord a new song. In fact, he invites the whole earth to sing to the Lord.
The Psalms was the hymnbook of Israel. It was also the first hymnbook of the Church. Furthermore, the psalms are still sung in many quarters of the Church to this day. Thus, we are probably missing something if we only read the Psalms and do not sing them.
However, the words of the psalmists do more than simply invite us to sing them. At least in this one instance, the psalmist invites us to sing to the Lord a new song. This suggests that we are to make up our own songs of praise to the Lord.
Now, I know that most of us probably do not have the requisite gifts or talents to be able to actually create a tune and the words to go with that tune that would properly express our praise to God. However, even if we do not have a musi…

Psalms 89-92

As we move, with Psalm 90, into Book IV of the Psalms, we read what are for many of us some of the most familiar words of the psalmists. Out of all of them this morning, these two lines from Psalm 90:12 spoke most directly to me….
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
One of my favorite books of all time is entitled When I Relax I Feel Guilty. It was written by a friend of our family named Tim Hansel. My favorite chapter in the book is entitled “The Time of Our Lives”. I wish I could quote the whole chapter to you, but that would take a lot of typing and a lot of space. Therefore, I will limit myself to just a few quotes and urge you to buy the book.
Tim begins the chapter by saying,
I once read a thought provoking article entitled, “If You Are 35, You Have 500 Days to Live.” Its thesis was that when you subtract the time spent sleeping, working, tending to personal matters, hygiene, odd chores, medical matters, eating, traveling, and miscellaneous time-stealers, in …

Psalms 85-88

One of the wonderful things about the Psalms is that when we feel our life is in the pits, we can turn to many of these psalms and feel, at least for a moment, like we are not alone. I feel that companionship of the psalmist on my spiritual journey when I read lines like these….
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, For I am poor and needy. (Psalm 86:1)
O Lord, God of my salvation, When, at night, I cry out in your presence, Let my prayer come before you; Incline your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of troubles… (Psalm 88:1-3)
However, the even better thing about the Psalms is that they do not leave us in the pit, but rather, show us the way out….
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, And I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me… (Psalm 86:12-13)
Even psalms that end on a downer, like Psalm 88, “You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness,” are followed by an upswing, “I will sing of your steadfast lov…

Psalms 81-84

Out of the four psalms I read this morning, Psalm 84 is undoubtedly my favorite. The psalmist expresses a longing for the Temple as the place where he will meet God….
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints For the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy To the living God.
There are, perhaps, some Christians today who can relate to the psalmist in a very particular way. I imagine there are some Christians who long for a particular cathedral, or even parish church, as their special place of meeting with God. However, even if we cannot relate to the psalmist in longing for a particular place of worship, most Christians, who have spent any amount of time in worshipping God, can relate to this longing for the Lord himself, to be in his presence.
Being in God’s presence is such a joy that the psalmist says, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
This verse, in Coverdale’s version, led C. S. Lewis, in his Reflections…

Psalms 77-80

Here we have more Psalms from the Asaph collection. As we saw in yesterday’s reading, Asaph was appointed by David to be in charge of music at Jerusalem. However, after his death, those in charge of music in the Temple continued to write psalms in Asaph’s name. This may be one such psalm, with the destruction of Jerusalem as a historical background.
The psalmist laments the fact that God does not seem to be acting in behalf of his people but rather is spurning them. Then, in verse 11, the psalmist finds an antidote to his own depressive mood: “I will remember your wonders of old.”
Often, when we face difficult times, we forget how God has provided for us in the past. Thus, before we can handle the challenges of the present, we must have an attitude change. For as someone has said, “Attitude determines altitude.” The key to a proper attitude adjustment in this instance is to remember God’s wonders of old—whether they be the wonders recorded in Scripture or God’s wonders performed in our …