(Note: It is amazing how often the psalmist’s situation overlaps with mine, especially when undergoing trials as in the present situation. I have received great assurance of God’s presence through reading them.)
We finish the first book of the Psalms (1-41) today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…
Psalms 30-41 recount the experience of God's people of His presence and salvation in their lives. 30-31 recount experiences of illness where God refocused trust back on to Him and then listened and responded to the request for healing. 32 praises God for full forgiveness and the lifting of the many burdens brought on by sin and guilt. 33 is a joyous call for everyone to praise God because of who He is and what He has done. Sharing praise is good for us. Finally, 34 is an invitation to taste committed relationship with God and find out how full and satisfying it is.
When it dawned upon him that he had taken the presence of God for granted in a time when he no longer acknowledged that presence, he gave voice to his longing for God’s mercy (v. 9). Apparently, his spiritual awakening had come, and with it the realization of his utter dependence upon the Lord. Psalm 30, 248
Verse 5 becomes an open avowal of complete trust: Into your hands I commit my spirit—not my fate but my “spirit,” and what a different outlook that represents! The spirit, as here used, indicates the animating principle of life, and so, life itself (see Ps 146:4). This is a commitment or surrendering of the self to the care and to the will of the Lord. Psalm 31, 251
Here is the happiness of being restored to God’s fellowship and to his way, after having sinned against him. The theme is forgiveness. No attempt is made at self-justification. The joy is not predicated upon freedom from transgression, but upon the mercy of God in granting pardon. Psalm 32, 255
These are indeed a chosen people, but not so much as a privilege as to responsibility and to purpose. It is in the meeting of that responsibility and the fulfilling of that purpose that the greater blessing comes—as to a people living within the will and purposes of God. God’s counsel is sure. It stands forever. Praise his name. Psalm 33.12, 262
We are told specifically: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. The writer then proceeds to describe the manner of life that one who is seeking God will follow (what it means to fear the Lord). At the outset, he makes clear that this is the formula for life, for long life, for the good life. The instructions are not detailed nor extensive, but are inclusive. They have to do with right speech (v. 13) and right conduct (v. 14). One should note the absence of reference to any cultic requirements. The concerns are moral and ethical. Psalm 34.11-22, 270
In 35-39 we find psalms about how God has worked with and delivered the psalmist from problems in life. Psalm 35 is a prayer for deliverance from enemies. The psalmist anticipates that God will vindicate him. Psalm 36 compares the evil man with "unbounded" good nature of God and his reliance on the mercy of God. Psalm 37 is the classic that reassures us that the "committed life" is worth living even when the wicked seem to have it better than us. Don't envy them. Instead trust God and His way. In 38 the psalmist throws himself on God's mercy and asks for healing and deliverance. 39 is an appeal to God when all hope is gone. Even when we are at our end and there appears to be no reason for hope we know that God's presence is always. the greatest hope we have.
Praise of God in Israel was not a solitary event. One may have prayed in secret, but having known the blessings of God’s response to his prayer, he could no more refrain from the public praise of the Lord than he could refrain from breathing. Should not the praise of God be a shared experience? One may honor him in his heart and praise him in solitude, but it would seem that a heart overflowing with adoration for God could not restrain itself from the public declaration. Psalm 35, 279
In the light that God has revealed we have knowledge unattainable in any other way—certainly not through speculation, postulation, or meditation. Has God spoken? A more important question could hardly be imagined. The Scriptures tell us that he has, and the corroborative evidence is abundant. When we affirm, “Yes, God has spoken,” admittedly it is a statement of faith, but it is a faith based on evidence! Psalm 36.8-9, 286
When one becomes aware of the reality of God, trust in him becomes a natural response, and by choosing to do good (instead of evil) we show that we trust him. We will not resort to devious, deceitful, wicked means to achieve our aims; we will not have to embrace evil in our search for the joy of life. When we trust God, we discover that his way is the way to complete fulfillment, the way of fulness of joy. Psalm 37.3-11, 290
He has confessed his iniquity and has expressed sorrow for his sin. He has unburdened before the Lord the suffering that he has endured in body and soul, including his rejection by his acquaintances. And, most importantly, he has declared his continued trust in the Lord! “I wait for you, O LORD” (v. 15). All of this becomes the basis for his final prayer. Psalm 38.21-22, 297
Of great significance is the fact that he clings to God even in the midst of deep depression. “My hope is in you” (v. 7). He then seeks deliverance from sin (v. 8), and closes his prayer with a petition that he may again experience cheerfulness before he dies (v. 13). Psalm 39, 298
Psalms 40-41 close the first book of the Psalms. Both are prayers. The first prayer (40) is that of a man faithful to the covenant who asks for God's promised healing and deliverance. He then pledges himself to continued faithfulness. The final (41) prayer also comes from a covenant person who recognizes his own sin and recognizes his hopeless situation, but draws hope from God's promises and expects God's deliverance. Hope comes from focusing on the promise rather than the situation.
The ultimate proof of faith is to be seen, not in what one says, but in conduct. The psalmist demonstrates his trust in God by bearing testimony to others of the deliverance he has experienced. More than this, he pledges himself to walk in the way of the Lord. Psalm 40.6-8, 305
It is a prayer for help by one suffering grave illness who has confidence that his prayer will be heard and answered. His expectation is based on the belief that a devout, compassionate person is blessed (vv. 1–3). Consequently, he freely addresses his lament to God (vv. 4–9) and prays confidently for deliverance, since he has maintained his integrity before the Lord (vv. 10–12). Psalm 41, 308