Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #8 (107-118)

Psalms volume 2We now move into the fifth and final book of the Psalms (107-150) today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. These psalms look forward to the hope that God will end the exile by sending his priest-king Messiah who will restore the kingdom. 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 107 begins the final (5) book of the Psalms. Books 1-3 have recounted the establishment of the covenant with David, but also the failure of the Davidic dynasty. Book 4 admits the justice of the exile, but asks God how long it will be before He forgives the nation and renews the blessing. The seemingly unsolvable problem is the sin of the nation which must be judged. The answer to the problem is God's passionate commitment, hesed, to His covenant people. He will make a way by becoming a human king Himself and saving His people. 107 opens with this theme, emphasizing that our only hope is to cry out to God in our helplessness and trust in Him alone for deliverance. 108 merges two older psalms into a new psalm praising God's hesed. 109 laments that even close friends will reject hesed and asks God to vindicate the psalmist and bring about justice according to His hesed. YHWH will do this through a coming Davidic descendant (110) a great priest-king who will lead His people to victory over evil, judge the nations and extend God's kingdom throughout the earth. What people could not do, God did by becoming human, through Jesus.

It appears that God’s ḥesed is exercised on behalf of his people at his pleasure, on behalf of those who are absolutely helpless by their own fault or not, sinful or not. The trigger in each situation is the “cry” to the LORD. God hears or sees and responds by “delivering,” “saving,” or “bringing them out” of their distress. These are demonstrations of God’s “wonderful deeds”—his ḥesed. Psalm 107, 303

The perspective of Psalm 108, like that of the Psalter as a whole, is eschatological, for it simultaneously celebrates and asks for God’s help.… Renouncing human help, it affirms that human life and the life of God’s people depend finally on God (vv. 12–13).” Psalm 108, 306

The confident that Yahweh God stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him (v. 31). Hence, “standing at the right hand of the needy one” is God’s normal position, a comfort to all who find themselves part of the “poor and needy.” Psalm 109, 313

It is best to view the term “sit” as a pronouncement of an enthronement at God’s right hand, a corulership with God Himself! Yahweh is king (Psalms 93, 96–99), but now he invites the Lord, a Davidic descendant, to reign with him in order to defeat all his enemies. It is guaranteed! Psalm 110, 320

Psalms 111-112 invite the reader to meditate on God's great works of the past. When the new priest-king comes (110), he will be bringing in an even greater "exodus" than the one from Egypt. 111 celebrates God's mighty works in the exodus and His wisdom in giving the torah to  His people. 112 urges us to respond to God by imitating His just, merciful, gracious and generous character. This is the means to a productive and happy life.

The works of God are worthy to be studied and sought after. They must not be neglected, rather one should “delight in them.” Psalm 111, 337

Those who fear Yahweh learn what true happiness and fulfillment in life is all about: being upright, gracious, and compassionate toward the sinner, generous in giving to the needy, and seeking what is fair and just for the helpless. Psalm 112, 344

Psalms 113-118 are called the "Egyptian Hallel" and invite the reader to praise God for his deliverance in the past from Egypt. 113 calls us to praise the "Name" (character) of God. 114 recalls the parting of the sea and the Jordan River after the Exodus. When God acts amazing things happen! 115 contrasts YHWH and his worshippers with false gods and theirs. Only YHWH is really able to make things happen. In 116, the psalmist vows to serve God because God has delivered him from certain death. 117 calls on everyone, in all nations, to praise YHWH for His covenant loyalty and truth. 118 sums up the themes of the Egyptian Hallel and celebrates God providing victory for their king. It also reminds the exiles that God's past victories give hope for a greater exodus to come and an even greater king.

Only those truly devoted to God have an inner knowledge of God’s Name—Yahweh—its meaning and significance. They have a sense of the great I AM, his divine Presence. Those who know God’s name can say: “He knows my name!” No matter your humble beginnings at birth, your needs at present, or your unfortunate circumstances that linger, you as God’s servant know God’s name. Psalms 113, 345–346

Throughout the psalm ironic twists are presented as a result of the presence of God...bodies of water such as a sea do not “flee,” and a river never stops or turns back. But at God’s presence these two bodies of water did move in miraculous ways. And so the psalmist reasons, “If God can do these things in our past, what could he do in our future?” There is always hope for the people who have such a God. May God’s Presence always be with us!  Psalm 114, 349–350

While the pagan myths present the creation of mankind as an afterthought and as “slaves” for the gods, the Hebrew understood mankind as the crown of God’s creation, corulers on the earth, responsible for its upkeep and care. Only a God who is free to do what he pleases can do this! Psalm 115, 354

God watches over the “little people,” in this case, the psalmist who has experienced a near-death sickness and/or some affliction that he would cry out, “All men are liars” (v. 11b). For emphasis the psalmist literally says: “Me he saved!” In other words, “God helps those who cannot help themselves." Psalm 116, 356

This psalm is a great universal appeal for all nations and peoples to praise the one true God—Yahweh! Yahweh does not exclusively belong to Israel. Rather, Israel’s “chosenness” by God is only a means to an end. All nations will be blessed through Abraham’s seed. Psalm 117, 361

Another double phrase emphasizes the need to take refuge in God rather than mankind (cp. Ps 2:12; 34:8) and to trust God explicitly (Ps 84:12). The term “princes” represents the wealthy political leaders who are able to do their own will with a word or a “gift.” One must not trust in such human power for it corrupts and destroys in the end. It is the choice between two types of power—divine or human. Psalm 118, 366

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