Monday, January 30, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms

(Note: It seems like this year my reading of Psalms came up at a great time. I have been receiving a lot of comfort and a little rebuke from reading through Psalms 1-42 over the last couple weeks. In Psalms, faith is shown by active waiting on God and giving Him public praise for who He is and what He has done. If you don’t know what to pray in a situation, just praying the words of the Psalms can be very affective.)

PPsalms volume 1salms is the hymn book of the Old Testament and the beginning of the Writings section which closes the OT. We will read through it 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…

Psalm 1 and 2 form the introduction to the whole book of Psalms and make the point that a wise person submits himself to the way that the Creator has formed the universe (torah) and to the rule of the Creator's representative, the king. Rebellion brings destruction, while submission brings blessing.

The state of blessedness or happiness in life finds its source more in what a person does than in what he refrains from doing. The wise man refuses to walk in the way of evil, not because he is bound by an oversensitive conscience but because he has chosen to walk a better way. Psalm 1, 88

Israel, though a small people, had the promise of God, existed as the covenant people of God, and would become the instrument of God, through whom Messiah would come. There was a divine purpose invested in this people, and any attempt by even the most powerful of the earth to thwart that purpose could only give rise to divine amusement and, towards the unrepentant, to divine wrath. Psalm 2, 94

Psalms 3-7 deal with living "confidently" in an evil, oppressive world. These psalmists understand that God settles accounts in His own time, is close in relationship to the oppressed and suffering, but will make things right in the end. Whether our troubles are caused by others or by our own sin, they should be brought to God in regular prayers of faith. God has our long term best interests at heart and we can trust His character.

God was his glory. To know such a God is true glory or boasting, lasting honor, not to be compared to any honor the world might offer. And although the world might call him wretched, even the least child of God has a glory and an immeasurable honor that cannot be taken from him. Psalm 3, 102

With a prayer on his lips and heavenly joy in his heart, he was sustained by his God. His was an experience of genuine security that comes from faith in one who is reliable. We are not told that the cause of his distress was taken away. Who knows? But in any event, it could not negate his security in the Lord. Psalm 4, 109

Whatever his need—whatever our need! What better way to start the day than to direct one’s thoughts, one’s praise, one’s prayers to God, and look up? Is it not better to face every day, whatever the circumstances, with God than without him? Psalm 5.3, 111

ḥesed is absolutely essential where any meaningful relationship is to exist between parties, since it signifies active, responsive love. It is a giving of oneself in kindness, as opportunity affords. No wonder the psalmist relied upon this as the basis of his plea to God. He could depend upon the Lord’s steadfastness in mercy towards the penitent (see Num 14:18), and for this reason he would call on him to deliver him from the death that threatened. Psalm 6, 119

When evil continues unabated and unchecked, the victims of that evil are distressed by God’s apparent unconcern. It is sometimes difficult for even the most patient soul to suppress the cry for God’s immediate justice to fall upon his enemies. Psalm 7, 127

Psalms 8-10 call us to live "expectantly" because God rules over all His creation and he has designated human beings as his representative rulers over it. Of course, as the writer of Hebrews points out, this has been skewed by human sin and will not be set completely right until we rule with Christ. We should not despair about oppressors and troubles now because history has shown that they all will pass off the scene. Only God's kingdom will be eternal.

The surpassing majesty of God is celebrated, both on earth and in heaven. Further cause for wonder beyond that of God’s own glory is the place he has accorded man in his design. In view of the greatness of God and of his creation—this illimitable universe—how insignificant man appears. Yet God has created him in his own likeness, giving him dominion over all the earth and its creatures. Psalm 8, 129

The eternal nature of God fills us with wonder. Kingdoms come and go. Despots arise upon the earth and pass away. Blasphemers rant and rave, shouting obscenities against God, but years hasten by, and soon they, too, are dead and buried. And God’s throne is just as secure when they have passed as if they had never existed. Psalm 9.7-10, 138

With this triumphant cry of faith the psalmist is ready to leave the matter in God’s hands. Whether deliverance would come or not, he would continue his earthly pilgrimage secure in the knowledge that God was present in his life. He did not walk alone. Psalm 10.16-18, 145

Psalms 11-15 are all about living "victoriously" as a believer in God when all around us evil seems to be in control and suffering seems to be everywhere. The Psalmists were besieged with those who mocked their faith, spoke against it, denied it and attacked it. They were tempted to give up faith to get themselves out of trouble. However, the psalmists knew that God rules and would set things right and committed themselves to relationship with God by living truthfully, loving neighbors and living as representatives of God (15).

The only escape from the danger threatening the land was in the Lord. And so, with resolute confidence, he responds to the situation, not with a lament addressed to God, but with words of encouragement addressed to the fainthearted and unbelieving around him. It is a psalm of trust, closing with a warning to the wicked declaring the fate that would surely befall them from the hand of a righteous God. Psalm 11, 146

The psalmist had no illusions. He knew that so long as vileness is exalted in a land, the wicked will continue to multiply, and evil will increase. This is an alarming reality of life. But he also knew that neither the boastful words and deceptions of men nor their deeds could negate the word of God. This, too, is a reality. Psalm 12, 153

The Lord is the living God. This distinguishes him from all others that are called god. Little wonder, then, that the psalmist was moved to direct his petition to him. Nor is it any wonder that he was blessed in so doing. We may rejoice that God still lives and that we also may address our prayers to him. Psalm 13, 155

The battle between belief and unbelief is the only significant warfare in the history of the world. All else depends upon the outcome of this battle! To believe that God lives, and that he sets standards of moral and ethical behavior for humankind, and to believe further that we are ultimately responsible to him, provides meaning, purpose, and direction to life. Psalm 14, 158

Here the requirements of those who would walk with him are ethical in nature. The emphasis is upon right conduct toward others. It is not fluency in prayer nor a tongue gifted in praises that will commend one to God, but a life that is in harmony with his righteous will. And harmony with God is to be demonstrated in one’s treatment of his fellow man. Psalm 15, 163

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