Tag Archives: Psalms

Through the Bible, June 30

Reading: Psalm 69, 135

Summary: Despite the attribution of Psalm 69 to David, some have concluded this Psalm is from the time following the Babylonian captivity.  It is believed vv. 35-36 date the Psalm to this time period. Remember, the inscriptions at the heading of the Psalms (not all contain these inscriptions) though quite old, are not a part of the inspired text.

Psalm 135 is thought, by some, to be dated later than David due to the similarity of language between this Psalm and portions of Jeremiah. Following the exile, it was clear that the prophet had been exactly right about the fate that he said would befall God’s people.  So, his words were borrowed (so the theory goes) as this Psalm reflects on God’s great acts.

Devotional Thought:

Where Did That Come From?

Psalm 69 may have a familiar sound to it for New Testament readers.  That’s with good reason.  No less than six different texts from this Psalm are quoted in various places in the New Testament: verse 9a in John 2:17; verse 9b in Romans 15:3; verse 21 in John 19:28-29 (and parallels in Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36); verses 23-24 in Rom. 11:9-10; and verse 25 in Acts 1:20.

These verses are used in reference to Jesus’ emotion when cleansing the temple, the hatred His followers would experience, His thirst on the cross, the death of Judas Iscariot, people’s acceptance or rejection of the gospel, and the fact that a Christian’s priority ought to be pleasing others rather than self–all from this one Psalm.

Here’s an important point—a single passage of Scripture may very well have more than one application.  We’ve probably all experienced this on a practical level.  A Scripture which has had meaning to us previously, then, due to some new or different circumstance in our lives suddenly it takes on significance in a whole new way.

This is not to say that the Bible’s meaning changes from situation to situation.  Instead, its application in our lives very well may change.

This is all part of the fact that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

God’s word doesn’t change, but we do.  No matter how we may change or what may come into our life, we will never become anything for which God’s word does not apply.  And, as we change—which we all inevitably do—the Bible remains ever new.  Consequently, the I’ve-read-that-before excuse never applies to Scripture.

Never stop reading your Bible!

Through the Bible, June 29

Reading: Psalm 137, 74

Summary: Psalm 137 contains the only certain historical reference to place it during the time of the exile.  Psalm 74, if not written during this time, certainly expresses the attitude of God’s people in their captivity.

Devotional Thought:

Do You Remember?

Memory is a powerful feature of the human psyche.  What a blessing to be able to recall the past with clarity; and what a curse.

Memories may soothe and comfort and make us smile.  They may also irritate and agitate and stir up remorse or regret or anger, they may make us cry.

From captivity in Babylon, Israel recalled Zion and wept.  Those were, no doubt, tears of remorse.  Unfaithfulness to God had led to her fall.  Why had they not listened to the prophets’ repeated warnings?

Those were tears of sorrow.  The temple had been such an integral part of national life and no doubt for many, held precious personal memories as well.

Those were tears of angst for a people displaced from their home.  “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (v. 4).

Tomorrow will carry memories of today. Not all of what happens today is in your control, but much of it is.  You are making your memories.  Shall you rejoice or weep?

June Supplemental Reading

Week 5: Supplemental Reading

June 29-30

            June’s two supplemental reading days will focus on Psalms apparently written during the time of exile or after.  The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the seventy years of exile had greatly affected the Jews’ understanding of themselves and their relationship with God.  Aside from the explicit historical reference of Psalm 137, this shift in perspective seems to appear in several of the Psalms and has led many to believe they were penned during the time of restoration, though this is far from certain.

Through the Bible, April 14

Reading: No Scheduled Reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the planned catch up day for the second week of April (8-14). Also, following are some points to ponder based on this week’s readings.

  1. In the introduction to this week’s reading we noted that 73 of the 100 Psalms that carry inscriptions are in some way ascribed to David. It’s interesting that in Acts 4:25-26 a quotation is made from Psalm 2 (verses 1-2) which bears no such inscription.  The quotation in Acts is introduced, though, with, “who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit”.
  2. Have you ever noticed that the book of Psalms is actually divided into five separate books? Book I is Psalms 1-41; Book II is Psalms 42-72; Book III is Psalms 73-89; Book IV is Psalms 90-106; Book V is Psalms 107-150.  The last verse of each of the five books serves as a doxology.  For instance, Psalm 41:13 reads, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.”
  3. Though David is credited with most of the Psalms other well known authors (or so ascribed) include Moses (Psalm 90) and Solomon (Psalm72 and 127). The time frame of the Psalm also ranges from Moses to the time of the Judges (perhaps Psalm 106) to the Babylonian exile (Psalm 137).

Devotional Thought:

A Mirror for the Realities of Life

The value of the Psalms is beyond measure.

That truth is nowhere more evident than in the fact that it is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament.  The Psalms obviously played a cornerstone role in the life and faith of those first disciples of Jesus and the original church.

For centuries since, believers have found in them great solace, joy, comfort, kindred pain, and exuberant praise.

The faith of the Psalms is genuine.  While they are perhaps best known for their expressions of praise to God who above all, and alone, is worthy; they also voice the hurt of hearts seemingly forgotten by God, the bitterness of tears in darkness of night, and the loneliness of faith when friends have failed.

The faith of the Psalms mirrors the realities of life.  All days are not pleasant.  Hearts don’t always soar. Yet, through it all and in it all God is still there.  His steadfast love does not fail, His mercies never come to an end.  He willingly and freely forgives–and forgives again.

And so this book marvelously ends: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)

Through the Bible, April 13

Reading: Psalms 30, 40, 103, 13

Summary: The final category of Psalms we’ll read from this week are Psalms of thanksgiving.  These are closely related to both lament and penitential Psalms in that they these are expressions of gratitude to God for deliverance and for forgiveness.

What great instruction these provide for believers today as ones who often pray to God for help and aid, but not so nearly often to express gratitude for His goodness.

Devotional Thought:

Just How Far Is It?

I don’t know if Kipling had Psalm 103 in mind when he wrote his “Ballad of East and West” or not.  It’s memorable opening lines are:

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;”

Interesting that he mentions God’s judgment because Psalm 103:12 says that “as far as the east is from the west , so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

God’s forgiveness is absolute.  It is complete.

As the poet observes, east and west do not come together, they never meet.  So when God forgives our sin, it’s removal is so absolute that it cannot touch us again.

Other expressions of this same truth comes from the prophets.  “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Being familiar as we are with ourselves and our sin, it can be hard to believe that God would do such a thing.  Sometimes people just won’t believe it; they won’t do what God has done and forgive themselves.

To which John says, “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

Truly, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).

Through the Bible, April 12

Reading: Psalms 6, 32, 38, 143

Summary: Several of the Psalms are expressions of repentance for sin committed.  These are called “penitential” Psalms.  In them the writer expresses sorrow for the wrong done, seeks forgiveness from God, and desires a restored relationship with him.

We have already read one such Psalm, and probably the best know of the penitential Psalms, and that is Psalm 51. There are others of this type, but consistent with the reading plan for this week, these are ascribed to David.

Devotional Thought:

Timing is the Issue

Timing is everything; or so they say.

I know it’s important in our relationship with God.  Timing can be the variable that introduces anxiety into that relationship.  Right?

We know that God is able.  He is powerful and almighty.  He’s demonstrated Himself to be that and much, much more, time and time again.  He is trustworthy, compassionate, and merciful. Of these we have no doubt.

We can trust in God.  We turn in faith to Him.  To Him we lift up our souls.

What bothers us about God is his timing.  Go ahead, admit it.  The Bible does.

We want God to act now.  “Make haste to help me,” and “answer me quickly, O Lord”  (Psalm 38:22; 143:7).  Those are our requests.

But sometimes He does not.  We find ourselves “languishing” in our troubles or sorrows and our question becomes, “how long?” (Psa. 6:2, 3).  Incidentally, this is one of the most frequently posed questions to God.  In addition to this instance, it’s asked thirteen other times in Psalms alone (see Psalm 13:1-2 for instance).

Our issue with God is not “if” but “when”.

God has a timing issue with us as well.  “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found” (Psa. 32:6).  Opportunity will not always be ours.  God has made Himself known and available, but that will not always be.  The time for us is now; today (2 Cor. 6:2).

God’s issue with us is both “if” and “when”.

Through the Bible, April 11

Reading: Psalms 5, 14, 28, 86, 109

Summary: The category into which more Psalms are classified than any other is the lament.  Perhaps the best description of a lament is found in the inscription to Psalm 102, which reads, “A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.”

The lament Psalms do express confidence in God for deliverance.  The distinction between these and the “trust” Psalms (considered yesterday) is that those are much more explicit in the expression of their trust.

Devotional Thought:

Unfamiliar

Think about the last time you were in an unfamiliar place or setting.  You didn’t know your surroundings and you didn’t know the people.  That can be unsettling, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.  Some of the greatest relationships and experiences of life begin with unfamiliarity.

So, let’s go down the path of the unfamiliar.  I think it will lead to some place very meaningful and rewarding.  It’s not a physical place, but rather a thought, an idea.  You may have heard it before, but have you thought on it before; seriously thought?

Here it is: “For to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul” (Psa. 86:4).

At first blush we may think little about it.  It sounds spiritual, religious, and biblical; because it is.  But what does it mean?  How often do we ponder the reality of our soul, much less what we do with it?

And to “lift it up” to God?  Is that to present it for the purpose of an offering?  fellowship? inspection? cleansing? restoration?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Some related thoughts in the context of this passage help to flesh out our thinking.

We lift our soul to God because he is good, forgiving, has unfailing love, and alone is God (Psa. 86:4, 6, 13).

We anticipate our souls to be made glad, to receive grace, and be be delivered (vv. 4, 6, 13).

In response to Him, then, we seek to learn His ways, fear Him, thank and glorify Him (vv. 11, 12).

I am also engaged in prayer, worship, and calling on His name (vv. vv. 6, 7, 9).

I don’t know all that is entailed in lifting up my soul to God.  I’m still on unfamiliar ground.  My intent, though, is for the unfamiliar to become familiar.

Through the Bible, April 10

Reading: Psalms 11, 23, 27, 62, 131

Summary: As noted in the introductory remarks to this week’s reading, students of the Psalms have worked to categorize them according to different types.  Though these types are really of human origin, they do help provide aid in understanding the various purposes served and emphases given in different Psalms.

Today’s Psalms are called Psalms of trust.  In these, very explicit reference is given to the writer’s trust (David in this case) in God for help, guidance, and/or protection.

Devotional Thought:

Troubled? Know This

Are you troubled?  Seriously so? Is your health, relationships, finances, emotions, future, career, faith, or whatever on less than stable ground?  Does uncertainty swirl through your life like a brisk breeze on a Spring day?  Perhaps the threats to your good and well-being are even more imminent. Trouble, real trouble, looms as a dark cloud over your tomorrows.

What to do?

I don’t know all the answers to your particular problem, but I do know that the place to begin is with this: the Lord is in his holy temple.

The life threatened by the wicked, both literally and in principle (Psa. 11:2-3) must remember, “The Lord is in His holy temple” (v. 4).

The nation knowing that God’s judgment looms; hardship and suffering are on their way.  They must remember, “The Lord is in His holy temple” (Hab. 2:20).

The Christian and church knowing the threats of the unrighteous are becoming reality and it appears that the most powerful forces in the world have aligned themselves in opposition; they must know, the Lord is in His holy temple, seated on His throne (Rev. 4).

That, too, I must know.  What threatens me, what I must endure, the instability of life, my anxiety or my pain; none of these alter this fact.

My problems are no threat to God.  My anxieties may become realities or they may not.  Even the ones that do, they will not last.  Oh, they could accompany me to my dying day, but no further.   The Lord is in His holy temple.

When all is said and done, He is in His holy temple.

When my problems are over; when my life ends, He is in His holy temple.

When this world and all it contains ceases to be and time is no more, He is in His holy temple.

I trust in Him.  “In the Lord I take refuge” (Psa. 11:1).

Through the Bible, April 9

Reading: Psalms 78, 89, 132

Summary: The Psalms of today’s reading are not attributed to David, though all three do have inscriptions.  These will be the only three we read this week not ascribed to him.  Instead all three of these Psalms make reference to his reign and the important covenant promise God made to him regarding his throne.

Devotional Thought:

Life’s Unpredictable Journey

We often wonder where we are in the scheme of things?  We look ahead and wonder, where is my life headed?  What does the future hold?

We look at the present and ask, why am I here, now, doing what I’m doing?  Wouldn’t I be better served in another place, with other responsibilities, better utilizing my talents and pursuing my passions?

We may even look back and long for simpler times with less problems, responsibilities, and duties; at a time when we wanted something “more” but would now give anything to return to that time of previous dissatisfaction?

Think about the life of David.

“He chose David his servant

and took him from the sheepfolds;

from following the nursing ewes he brought him

to shepherd Jacob his people,

Israel his inheritance.”

(Psalm 78:70-71 ESV)

Did he, while shepherding the flocks, dream about greater things for his life?  Did he, under the immense weight of responsibility as king ever long for the simplicity and solitude of the pastures and company of the guileless sheep?

Young David was a king, caring for nursing ewes.  King David was a shepherd leading God’s inheritance.

It matters not where we may now be, doing what we may now do; our future, our past, our present, our life lies in God’s hands.

Right now; right here; I must do my best, give my all, and look for God to lead me where He will.

Through the Bible, April 8

Reading: Psalms 51, 3, 60

Summary: Having spent the first week of this month reading the historical record of David’s reign, we’ll begin our readings from Psalms with those bearing an inscription (or heading) that attributes them to events in David’s life while he reigned as king.  Be sure to read the inscriptions which are found prior to the first verse of the Psalm.  Probably best known of these is Psalm 51 and its attachment to David’s repentance in response to his sin with Bathsheba.

One of the great values of these Psalms in particular is the spiritual reflection they provide on historical events with which we are already familiar.

Devotional Thought:

Getting God’s Attention

What gets your attention?  Think about it.  You and I are bombarded, literally, with hundreds, even thousands of messages, alerts, requests, offers, pleas, announcements, promotions, and proposals vying for our attention every day.  “Hey, look at me!” they all shout.

It’s in your mailbox, it’s in your email inbox, it’s on your internet homepage, it’s on your television, it’s during the games you play on your phone or tablet, it’s on billboards and signs as you drive, it’s on the radio, it’s on fliers stuck under your windshield wiper or front door knob, it’s all over the newspaper or magazine you read, it’s on bumper stickers, it’s on Facebook, it’s on the results page of a web search.

It. is. every. where.

It’s not humanly possible to give attention to them all, nor is it desirable.  We have to weed through them.  Even unconsciously we ignore and mentally discard the vast majority.  Sometimes, though, something catches our eye (or ear).  We allow a few moments for closer consideration.  Our attention has been captured.

Let’s turn this on its ear.  What gets God’s attention?  To what does God respond favorably?  What is it about us to which God is drawn?

It’s not religion, per se.  It’s not ritual.  It’s not memorized words repeated.

David says it is “a broken spirit…a broken and contrite heart” (Psa. 51:17; see also 34:18).

Others agree.  “I dwell…with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit” (Isa. 57:15). “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).  “Return to me with all your heart..and rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-13).

Jesus agrees too.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:3).

So, is there anything about you that catches God’s attention?