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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Psalms 31-35

Psalms 31

This is another of David's Psalms. It sounds like he has been in battle. He uses metaphors that relate to military engagement. He sees God as his refuge and his fortress. He claims righteousness as he deliverer.

We will do well to see the traps that are set for us as an assault on our relationship with God. In vs. 5 I hear an echo from the Cross. In every situation we can always resign our own effort in favor of delivery by the Spirit of God.

David is ever conscious of his position. He senses the shame of rejection by God and the people as worse than death. He hates the idea of idols and resorts always to God as his refuge. 

He always returns to the shelter of God's presence praising God for his abundant love and protection. O, the wonders of His love. Toward the end of the Psalm he addresses the people, calling them to faithfulness and obedience for God will not abide the unfaithful.

Psalms 32

This Psalm is called a Maschil. The word Maschil is used to describe an instruction for skillful musicians. The Psalm contains some direction or instruction in piety, also. This one instructs us in how to value and accept forgiveness.

I think I have read somewhere that this Psalm refers to David's sin recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 1-17 but not all authorities recognize that reference. 

The Psalm does discuss the release from guilt and joy of forgiveness in detail. Vs 1 is often quoted in prayers and instructions on forgiveness.

Vss. 3 and 4 give the best reason for making confession. In trying to keep the sin secret, it destroys the one who is hiding it. Habakkuk 3:15 witnessed the wrath of God in vengeance and rottenness entered his bones too. When you are counted among the sinners, you have no strength to defend. Then your only recourse is confession.

Vs. 6 points the way. The Godly shall pray. God is the hiding place(vs. 7).
Don't be like the stubborn mule that is restrained by a bit, but has no understanding.(Vs. 9)

Vs. 11 describes the way to joy and fulfillment. Read the Psalm and follow its advice.

Psalms 33

This Psalm is not identified by author. It is a song of praise and joy. It credits God with creation and a bird's eye view of mankind.

 The Psalm praises the musical instruments common at the time. The harp, the psaltery, and an instrument with ten strings are mentioned.

The Psalmist praises the Lord for his control of the world and its various aspects: the physical features, governments, human insight.

This Psalm contains many oft-quoted verses and phrases: vs 3 Sing to the Lord a new song,... vs.4 the word of the Lord is right, and all his works are done in truth. Vs. 18 Behold the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in his unfailing love vs. 20 we wait for the Lord, He is our help and our shield. (quotations from the NIV) Read and reflect on God's promises and remember his love and mercy or loving kindness.

Psalm 34

This Psalm of David records David's dependence on the Lord when he sought help because of Saul's attacks on him.

Verse 1 reminds me of I Thess. 5:18. Even in bad times and with fearful events, it is still appropriate to praise God. We offer praise, not for what is happening in our lives, but for God who is our strength and shield.

Vs. 7 reminds us that God's angels are available when we go to Him in prayer. David is in trouble. He is in the presence of a king who is able to kill him or bring destruction on him at any moment. He is fearful, but God gives him assurance. He fakes out Abimelech by pretending madness. 

I see the hand of God in delivering David from Saul and even from Abemelech, but I can't recommend playing insanity! It is a hard act. Most people can't do it especially when they are facing people who know what insanity looks like.

David kept his eyes on God and was obedient, and God brought him through. That's the part we need to remember.

Psalm 35

Psalm 35 sounds like David is still in the sights of Saul. He prays for God to fight for him and to confound his enemies. His enemies had lied about him and charged him with things he knew nothing about. He had been kind to them, but they had rejected his help.

In vs. 17 he charges God, "How long will you look on, Lord? These people devise evil against the innocent. Lord, don't keep silent."(my translation). He calls on God to prompt the people to believe in his righteousness and he gives praise to God for his faithfulness.

Read my comments first if you like, then read the Bible and see if I missed anything, or read Psalms and then check out my comments. Either way, be sure to honor the Bible first and see if I help you understand or if I'm getting in your way. David was a pretty good writer as poets go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Psakns 26-30

Psalms 26

David is almost braggadocios in this psalm. He begins with humility asking for vindication, but he continues with a litany of his righteous behavior. He recites his own virtues always ending with his testimony of God's love and faithfulness. I am writing these comments on the Psalms during the Christmas season, so forgive me if I get lost in the Spirit of Christmas.

I don't recommend this pattern for prayer. It is too easy to name the places where your actions are laudable and skip over the places where your behavior might not have met God's standard. 

There are gems of praise that bear repeating: vs. 3   I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

vs. 6and 7 "I... go about your altar, Lord,
proclaiming aloud your praise
    and telling of all your wonderful deeds."

vs. 8 "Lord, I love the house where you live,
    the place where your glory dwells."

 In vs. 11 he comes back to a place of repentance: deliver me and be merciful to me. 

In vs. 12 he closes with: " in the great congregation I will praise the Lord."

I love to read the praises and experience the emotions David's words bring. He reminds us of the importance of praise and joy in a time of sometimes foolishness and frivolity.  Don't let Christmas dissolve into bright lights and wrapping paper.

Psalm 27

David uses the rhetorical question well. In this Psalm he challenges the reader to look at his own situation and compare it with the virtue of God's presence. There is no fear when God is his resource. 

David does not fear the armies of the enemy; their wickedness is the primary weapon. David stands secure in God's presence, for their own treachery is their downfall.

His guide is his heart which still calls out to God. He desires to be in the House of the Lord. In it he finds shelter and security. Several references to slander and verbal assault are mentioned, and David finds strength in music, the words reassure him and the melody recalls the Lord's presence.

He closes with a final benediction to cheer the heart of a fearful companion: be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. 

Psalms 28

In this Psalm David focuses on the pain and destruction of the words people use to injure and destroy. 

He equates words with deeds; when there is malice in the heart, evil follows. He asks God to bring the evil on the ones who harbored it in their hearts. 

He closes with a final prayer of support for the people. Vs. 9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Read it for yourself and create your own testimony of praise.

Psalms 29

The KJV says "Give to the Lord, O ye Mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength," while the NIV uses "ascribe" instead of "give." Either word seems weak to me. I read it more as an injunction to recognize the power and glory and strength of the Lord and give praise to Him. My own interpretation means we need to see these values as present in God and our purpose is to celebrate and acknowledge them.

In verse 3 he brings the "voice of the Lord" into our notice. I guess I think of thunder as one evidence of God's voice. I know the scientific definition of thunder excludes God's activity, but this is a personal thing.

Cedars of Lebanon were prized in the ancient world for buildings and boats. They were imported to Egypt and planted there as a resource for future building before 1100 bce.

Sirion in vs. 6 is Mount Hermon. All the metaphors emphasize the power and majesty of God. Read it and remember where he is powerful in your own life.

Psalms 30

This Psalm is notable for several reasons. It is a Psalm of David. The title says it is for the dedication of his palace. He desired to build the Temple but God did not allow it. He goes on to detail the reasons he praises God at the dedication of this palace.

David was a man of war and he had faced many enemies. It is easy to see why he would be thankful and sensitive to God's protection, but he also gives thanks for healing. I don't know of a time of illness, but surely that is possible.

Vs. 5 is often quoted by those in distress: "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

We like David are confident when things are going well, but when the tides turn against us, we lose hope and sometimes faith. Then it's time to remember what God has done for us in the past and claim His victory. We cannot be silent when we recall His glory and blessings.

Share His joy everywhere and rejoice in Christmas and the Birth of the Savior!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Psalms 21-25

Psalms 21Image result for praise the lord images

David is not hesitant to praise God for his victories and success in battle. He rejoices in the power he exercises as King of Israel and the benefits he enjoys, but he counts all of it in relation to the joy of residing in the presence of God.

At the end of verse 2 the word Selah appears. Authorities do not have a consistent explanation of what it means. I had assumed it noted a section or change in theme or cadence, but that was just my own interpretation. One translator claims it is a musical direction.

Verse 8 changes from David's praise of God's help to him to wrath and retribution against God's enemies. God brings consuming fire and the drawn bow against those who are not yielded to him. He closes with verse 13 giving praise to God's might and strength.

Psalms 22 

This is one of the Psalms of David. Instructions to the choir director say it should be sung to the tune of "Doe of the Morning."
This is one of several psalms designated as Messianic Psalms because it deals with details and emotions related to the life of Christ. The first verse is partially quoted by Jesus on the Cross Luke 15;34. I have heard and read many interpretations and approaches to this. Some people say that Jesus knew all things including the mind of God about the events and realities of the crucifixion. Others say he was as human on the cross as all of us would be and the pain was a present and tormenting physical sensation. It is easy to get the varying opinions by a simple google search. Here you'll only get my take on it.

Verse 22 marks the shift from the horrors of thirst, wrenching pain, and abandonment to the release of stress and joy of praise.

"Eloi, Eloi" sounds like the name of Elijah or the Greek rendering Elias, and a bystander thought Jesus was calling on the prophet. We should not be surprised that he was familiar with the scriptures, especially those which prophesied about him. He knew who he was and how the word referred to him. Matt. 27:46, Mark 15:34

I am convinced that Mary told the child Jesus the story of his birth and her visit by Gabriel. Verses 9 and 10 provide David's understanding of the relationship the Messiah would have with God. From the womb he was already established as God's Son. Perhaps he learned these verses from the time he was 12 or before, that charted the course he would take.  

Crying out to God in the midst of his loneliest hour gives us deep insight into his isolation. Perhaps he reflects on the night prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where he was also alone. The thieves who were also being crucified questioned why he didn't do something to end the suffering. Verses 3-5 calls back some of Israel's challenges to become a nation that followed God.  

Jesus did not hesitate to follow God's direction, but he did recognize what it would be and accepted the role he would play in God's plan.
He sees the crowd at the cross as "bulls" and "lions" who torment and tear at his flesh.

When he was born. the forces of evil had already attacked him. Nero sought him to kill him, and only the escape into Egypt spared his life. His birth in a stable exposed him  to diseases like Tetanus. 

David's description pictures him as without strength or power. The medical description indicates he would be totally exhausted and without even strength to speak. There are only seven times he spoke at all from the cross. Most authorities say he died from lack of breath. The weight on the shoulders caused his lungs to compress and he was unable to expand them. The nails in his hands were probably not in the palms but the wrist joint. His feet were probably nailed in the heel or Achilles tendon which gave him no support from his legs. Probably the shoulders, hips and possibly knees were dislocated, but no bones were broken.

Thirst would have been tormenting vs.15. His prayer is for God to deliver his soul. He sees them arguing over his clothes.

Then suddenly he is ready to declare God's name to his" brethren in the midst of the congregation."(vs. 22-31)." He praises the Lord because He heard him. He reassures those who depend on God and calls them to declare His righteousness to a people that shall be born.

Psalms 23

This is probably the best known and quoted Psalm in the collection of Psalms. David was a shepherd before he was a warrior and king. He translated his experience to a metaphor everyone could understand. The Lord is my shepherd is an arresting beginning. 

Sheep are dumb. They are not as self-sufficient as horses or cattle. They need the shepherd. They will eat in the pleasant pasture, but they do not follow a path that leads to plenty. Cows are better at choosing a place to graze close to water. Sheep depend on the shepherd to find a still pool from which to drink because the will not drink from flowing streams.

The shepherd's staff is used to protect the sheep from varmints and lift them if they call into a crevasse in the rocks. There is a location in Israel called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is a dangerous place for sheep.

The closing benediction is reassuring and uplifting to us as we struggle with life's trials and challenges. Forever is a long time. I claim this promise of His grace and preservation.

John 10:1-18 gives a detailed explanation of the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is one of the I Ams found in the Gospel of John.

Read Psalms 23 for your self and be blessed.

For a fuller explanation of a shepherd's life click here to read the Basque Shepherd's description.

Psalms 24

Psalms 24 is the third in a series of Messianic Psalms. It offers a fuller description of the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus as its supreme head. David emphasizes His holiness and righteous character. All who come here will be like Him and will be blessed.

Psalms 25

This Psalm of David is an acrostic and you will find it has the right number of verses: 22. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each verse begins with a succeeding letter. The poem focuses on one of David's favorite themes, his trust in God.

Some commentators think David suffered with depression. He often expresses conviction and sorrow for his sins in Psalms. It seems understandable to me that he feels threatened considering his position as a warrior and the King of Israel.

As is his custom, the end returns to praise and shelter in the protection of God.  Read it and see for yourself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Psalms 16-20

Michtam is a word used to describe a song or poem with highly valued content. Sometimes it is translated as "golden" and indicates it is precious as gold, denoting a composition so precious as to be worthy to be engraven on a durable tablet for preservation; or, as others render, "a psalm precious as stamped gold," (Easton's Bible Dictionary) Michtam may also have been a musical reference or instruction.

Psalms 16

David seeks God and puts his trust in Him. Then he seeks other people who trust in Him. He avoids those who worship and sacrifice to other gods. He knows their problems will increase because they are not following after the true God.

He claims the Lord as his by inheritance. Now it is his turn to call for obedience. He recognizes God's counsel and instruction. The good things of life are in God's hands.

Come take of his bounty and the rejoice of his presence.

Psalms 17

It is possible to be distraught and suffer anguish even when we have committed no sin or error. Circumstances in life may bring pressure and anxiety, even to the righteous. David went to God with this kind of need. We don't need to heap criticism and guilt on ourselves, but it is still God who has the resources to soothe and strengthen us.

Examine your actions and make sure you don't have any sin to confess or any mistakes to correct, then leave it in God's hands.
Satan does take advantage of weakness in the Spirit.

Verse 7 reveals the place of safety and reminds us of God's constant watchfulness:

Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;   

I really love the reference to God's right hand. It is used many times in both the Old Testament and the New. The Right Hand indicated authority and power. In Latin, the left hand implies harmful or sinister motives. The right hand means approval. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.

David sets a role model for us. He will not confront his enemies, but he asks God to act for him. He goes into detail about the actions of the evil enemies. He builds a convincing case against them, but he leaves the retribution to God. We will do well to follow his example.

Psalms 18

Psalms 18 describes David's praise of God in the case of his deliverance from Saul. This needs a little refresher course on the previous events in David's life. 

Saul was the first king of Israel, but he was disobedient and presumptuous, and God told Samuel he would be rejected. Samuel tried to claim forgiveness and repentance for Saul, but when he continued in his arrogance, Samuel anointed David to succeed him.(1 Samuel 16) Saul was still King, and David was still herding his father's sheep. The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul. An evil spirit tormented Saul, so they sought for a musician to play a lyre to calm him when this happened. Someone knew about David's skill in music and they sought him out. 

David impressed Saul. He was helpful with the vexations from the evil spirit and he was good company. He brought with him, wine, bread and meat. Saul received relief and David went home.

Chapter 17 of 1 Samuel tells the story of David and Goliath, and Saul is reminded of the brave and talented young man.

David was given command of troops and was successful in his campaigns. (1 Samuel 18) Saul grows jealous of David's success. Saul promised David his daughter Michal marriage.  Both Michal and Jonathan warned David and helped him escape Saul's anger. David never tried to kill Saul though he had opportunities.

David ran from the attack of Saul for years recounted in the rest of 1 Samuel. The death of Saul is recounted in both 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1 giving different details.                                                         
Saul and his three sons were found and the Philistines claimed victory. David weeps for his friend Jonathan and lamented for Saul and his sons.
 Read Psalms 18 and look for indications of his loyalty to Saul and his praise for God.

Psalms 18:2 contains many words that reflect David's mindset: God delivered him using a fortress, shield, and stronghold. He recalls the years of threat from Saul in terms of the a struggle for life. Psalms 18:3-5 detail the constant fear he experienced from Saul's men.

There are hints in the Psalm of natural events that plagued David during the time in the wilderness when he was hiding and running from Saul.  He speaks of thunder and lightning. I envision a storm that put his life at risk. (Vs. 13&14)

He says God drew him out of "deep waters" in vs. 16.  I did not find a place in the test of 1 Samuel that can traced to these events, but in the years he spent as a fugitive, surely these are possible.

Read Psalms 18 for a richer understanding of David and his worship of God.

Psalms 19 

Psalms 19 praises the evidence of God's message in the work of nature and the voice of  nature that echos without words. He praises the laws and statutes of God who evidence is in the natural world. 

He uses a poetic device which defines the attribute of God's law and an explanatory phrase that follows: "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."

This Psalm may be more familiar that some, but recognition may rest in a few of the metaphors rather than a complete reading.

Verse 14 is a benediction often used independently. Read it and find your own reason for placing value on it.

Psalms 20

Psalms 20 is a plea for deliverance from trouble. David is confident of God's attention to those who are loyal to him. His words are reassuring to anyone who is faithful to God.

Vs. 4 is a favorite: May he give you the desires of your heart. This forces the reader to examine the desires of the heart. Are they pure? Are the desires of your heart something God can endorse? Don't assume He can violate his own nature to do as you ask. 

Sometimes people claim that righteousness is a method of gaining God's favor without confession and repentance. The other side of that question is equally as valid: When we are acting in defiance of God's love or grace should we expect to receive his commendation?

Don't take my word for it. Read the Psalm and examine your own heart. The let your own words be examined in the light of His answer.