Monday, January 30, 2017

Psalms: the book for all occasions

Psalms is a collection of poems, songs and prayers which express praise, worship and confessions to God. The book contains 150 psalms which express the heart and soul of humanity. The shortest psalm is only two verses (Psalm 117) and the longest psalm is 150 verses (Psalm 119)! The psalmists experience the depths of despair and the heights of joy and God brings them out of their struggles. David was the most prolific psalmist who wrote 73 psalms. The psalms are said to be written between the time of Moses (around 1440 BC) and the Babylonian captivity (586 BC). With so many psalms, it was hard to choose just a few to discuss; however, I’ve chosen psalms which have great meaning to people I know as well as ones which stood out to me as I read.


First, Psalm 40 is my husband’s favorite psalm. His favorite band, U2, used Psalm 40 as inspiration for their song, “40.” It was written by David and speaks to waiting patiently while doing God’s will. While we wait, we can love God, serve others and tell others about him. Verse 1 opens this theme directly, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Waiting patiently for the Lord is not easy but David received four blessings for he patience: God had 1) lifted him out of this despair, 2) set his feet on a rock, 3) gave him a firm place to stand (verse 2) and 4) gave him a new song of praise (verse 3). Blessings are often not received until a trial of waiting. For instance, my husband and I recently bought a car. We waited for years for our own car. From balancing sharing a car with my mom and then getting a gift of a car riddled with problems, we patiently waited for the day when we could get our own car. Then this year, God rewarded our patience with a great deal and a car we love to drive.


Second, Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, a leader of one of the temple choirs. This psalm speaks about living holy lives and trusting God for our future. The psalm opens discussing how the wicked seem to prosper: “always carefree, they increase in wealth” (verse 12) but the righteous have lasting rewards. After the riches of this earth will fade away, the righteous has something which cannot disappear: God. Verse 27-28 states “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” One verse stood out to me and speaks to those who feel as if they have failed and cannot return to God. Verse 26 says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” As you and I live our life, despite our best efforts to live a Christ-like life, we will fail. We will have moments of weakness. However, as long as we cling to God in those moments, we will have renewed strength.  


Third, Psalm 103 is a psalm of David which speaks of God’s great love for us and what God does for us tells us what he is really like. Verses 8-10 tells us who God is. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (verse 8). He will not accuse, harbor his anger forever or treat us as our sins deserve (verse 9-10). My favorite verses is 11-12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his live for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” These two verses are great joy for believers. Since the east and west can never meet, it is symbolic of God’s forgiveness. When He forgives our sins, He separates it from us and doesn’t remember it. People will remember their sin and dwell on it. However, when we place our trust in Christ and seek forgiveness, God forgives and forgets. Our record has been wiped clean and we can live with a new slate. Although this doesn’t mean we won’t sin again because we will; but when we truly seek forgiveness from God, he will remove our sin.


Lastly, Psalm 112 is a psalm about the advantages of having faith in God. God guards the minds and actions of those who follow his commands. Verse 1 states, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.” To fear the Lord is to have great reverence and respect for God and His Word. The Hebrew word for fear, yirah, have a wide range of meanings in Scripture. It can mean a fear of impending danger. However, it also means the idea of wonder, amazement, astonishment, gratitude, admiration, and worship of God. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is an overwhelming sense of the glory, worth and beauty of the One True God (Parsons). If we have fear and trust in the Lord, we “will have no fear of bad news” and our hearts will be “steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (verse 7). This verse is one of the reasons why that I do not fear the future. Despite the discord in our country and the world, I trust that God is in control and all will work for His good. Many people will be dragged into the debates, the arguments and great anger will ensue, but I refuse to do so. I have faith in the Lord and no man can change that. 


The book of Psalms is a great source of encouragement when feeling afraid or a host of other emotions. It is also a source to go to when facing struggles and difficult times. For the psalms which I have featured, these psalms teach us that if we wait patiently for the Lord, we will be blessed. Trusting in God will give us riches that will never fade. God will help us in our moments of weakness. God has great love for us and He is a forgiving Lord. Lastly, fear of the Lord helps us be unafraid in the world around us. Although it sounds too good to be true and sometimes we will fail. Sometimes, we will get inpatient, we will falter in our trust, and the fear in the world around us will overpower us, God is a forgiving God and he will welcome you back. All you have to do is turn to Him.

References:

Parsons, John J. (retrieved 1/29/2017) The Awe of the Lord http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Eikev/Yirah/yirah.html