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Showing posts from May, 2014

C. S. Lewis Colloquium

I am taking a break from blogging through the Bible for the next few days. I am off to Taylor University in Indiana for the C. S. Lewis & Friends Colloquium. I will be presenting a paper tomorrow on Lewis & G. K Chesterton.

Psalms 69-72

“It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” Psalm 69:9
This is the verse that most stood out to me on this reading of these four chapters. Of course, this is one verse from the Psalms in which the New Testament sees a reference to an event from the life of Jesus. (See John 2:17.)
What are we to make of the supposedly prophetic element in the Psalms? On this subject, C. S. Lewis has an entire chapter in his book, Reflections on the Psalms. He begins by saying:
In a certain sense Our Lord’s interpretation of the Psalms was common ground between Himself and His opponents. The question we mentioned a moment ago, how David can call Christ “my Lord” (Mark 12, 35-37), would lose its point unless it were addressed to those who took it for granted that the “my Lord” referred to in Psalm 110 was the Messiah, the regal and anointed deliverer who would subject the world to Israel. This method was accepted by all. The “scriptures” all had a…

Psalms 65-68

The Psalms contain, to my mind, some of the most beautiful nature poetry that exists. One line I particular enjoyed on this reading, from Psalm 65, was this one: “you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.”
In Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis explains the unique position of the psalmists in writing such nature poetry….
Two factors determine the Psalmists’ approach to Nature. The first they share with the vast majority of ancient writers; the second was in their time, if not absolutely unique, extremely rare.
i.They belong to a nation chiefly of peasants. For us the very name Jew is associated with finance, shopkeeping, money-lending and the like. This however, dates from the Middle Ages when the Jews were not allowed to own land and were driven into occupations remote from the soil. Whatever characteristics the modern Jew has acquired from millennia of such occupations, they cannot have been those of his ancient ancestors. Those were peasants or farmers. Wh…

Psalm 61-64

From today’s reading, what struck me with considerable force were these words from the opening of Psalm 62…. 
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”
This one verse raises certain questions for me. Can I really say, “For God alone my soul waits”? So often my soul waits for anything and anyone else but God.
Secondly, how often do I wait in silence? The honest answer is: not often. Just like being still is difficult, being silent, sitting in silence, is tough. It is easy enough where I live to sit in silence when I am alone in my own home. That is, it is relatively easy to find external silence. What is harder is to find internal silence, to still the incessant voices, the unceasing chatter, in my own brain. That takes time. It takes sitting for quite some time with external silence, with no distractions, until I become quiet within. In fact, this is a completely separate spiritual discipline, for me at least, from reading Scripture and praying. I have done i…

Psalms 57-60

One main thought occurred to me as I read these four psalms of David today. If David had not gone through such difficult times in his life, and if he had not written down his thoughts and prayers during these challenging times, countless people would be bereft of one of the greatest sources of comfort that has been known through literature over the past three thousand years. Perhaps this should be an encouragement to us, that God can use our painful experiences to bring comfort to others as well.
These psalms should also serve as an invitation to us to write down our thoughts and prayers as we may travel through the valley of the shadow. Writing can be a very healing exercise. C. S. Lewis discovered this in his life. He once said that ink was like a drug to him. Writing helped him to cope—especially when he went through the tortuous ordeal of losing his wife to cancer. God has used Lewis’ journal from that painful time in his life to help an untold number of people walking the winding…

Psalms 53-56

If you felt like you were experiencing déjà vu while reading Psalm 53, you were. Much of this psalm repeats what is in Psalm 14. You may well wonder why that is the case. Our current Psalter combines several collections of psalms. Just as many hymns appear in more than one hymnbook in our own time, some of the psalms appeared in more than one collection in ancient times. So why would the person or persons making the final selection for our current Psalter leave two such similar psalms in the final cut? Perhaps the reason is that the collector(s) found the differences in these two psalms important enough to include both. Another reason may be that the position of these two psalms in Book I and Book II were important to the flow of the entire collection. However, these are only guesses.
Verse 3 is often quoted in support of the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. You may remember that it is also quoted by Paul in Romans 3. “There is no one who does good, no not one.” However, in the c…

Psalms 49-52

Psalm 49 mentions Sheol once again. This raises the question: why did the ancient Jews not have any significant belief in an afterlife? C. S. Lewis gives this answer:It is surely, therefore, very possible that when God began to reveal Himself to men, to show them that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He has a claim upon them simply by being what He is, quite apart from anything He can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition. These are not the right point to begin at. An effective belief in them, coming too soon, may even render almost impossible the development of (so to call it) the appetite for God; personal hopes and fears, too obviously exciting, have got in first. Later when, after centuries of spiritual training, men have learned to desire and adore God, to pant after Him “as pants the hart,” it is another matter. For then those w…

Psalms 45-48

Psalm 45, as noted in the heading, is a love song. However, it is not just any love song. It is a love song composed for the King of Israel, perhaps even Solomon.This psalm was written by one of the Korahites, presumably a man. Therefore, I find verse two rather startling: “You are the most handsome of men.” However, what is going on here is probably similar to what went on with the original productions of Shakespeare’s plays where men had to play all the parts, including female ones. Here the psalmist has to imagine how a woman would view Solomon. Scripture remarks on David being handsome so it should come as no surprise that his son was handsome too.Verse four has a funny story to go along with it. My mother told me this one when I was young. There was once an African American preacher who led a rather poor congregation in one of the inner cities of the United States many years ago. He was generally beloved by his congregation, but they did find fault with him for driving a very fin…

Psalms 41-44

With Psalm 41, we come to the close of the first book of the psalms. The psalms are arranged into five books. Thus, we have five books of psalms for the singing and liturgy of worship for the congregation, just as we have five books of law, the Torah or Pentateuch. This first book of psalms has been filled, as we have already seen, with many psalms of David. Some of these were, no doubt, written by the great king. Others were written in tribute to him. Still others became associated with David for reasons we can no longer discern.As is the case with other psalms of David, so too with Psalm 41, it is a messianic psalm. We see the specific connection with Jesus in verse 9: “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.” The astute Christian reader might see the connection of this verse with Jesus and Judas, even if the New Testament did not make the connection for us. Was David, or whoever wrote this psalm aware that he was writing a prophe…