8 Key Takeaways from the Psalms

I’m sharing today from The NIV Bible blog.

8 Key Takeaways from the Psalms

The psalms represent a priceless treasure trove of resources for relating to God in all circumstances. They instruct us in how to live, and they teach us great truths about God the great King, his sovereign rule over all things, and his plan for reconciling the world to himself through his Son Jesus, the Christ. With all their beauty and spiritually uplifting messages, here are 8 key takeaways from the Psalms.

1. The book of Psalms engages almost all of the great themes of the Bible.

Beginning with Psalms 1 – 2, the Psalter lays out the theme of —
• The righteous versus the wicked and the importance of relying on God and his Word.
• God’s sovereignty and rule over all people and nations.
• The interplay between divine and human kingship.
• God as a place of refuge for all.

2. As human words to and about God, the Psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God.

They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God’s name far and wide, and more.

3. The Psalms teach us that God has sovereign rule as the great King over all things.

God rules over creation itself and over all nations and people groups — down to each individual person. As the sovereign King, God asserts his control over the most powerful forces in nature. He proclaims his authority over all the false gods of the nations, gods that were such a temptation for his own people time and time again.

4. The Psalms celebrate that God is a good God.

God is holy, loving, merciful, protective of his people, faithful, a keeper of promises, a giver of good gifts. He protects the vulnerable in society — the widow, the fatherless, the outsider, and the poor — and expects his representatives on earth to carry out this mission.

5. The Psalms praise God for being a just God.

The Lord vindicates his people, punishes evil, and cares for the marginalized. He opposes the wicked, whether individuals (e.g., Psalms 1:4 – 6) or nations (e.g., Psalm 2), and will mete out justice for their wickedness.

Read the rest here.

No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity.

No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

By William R. Osborne 

It is not often in human history that words like plague and pestilence become household terminology, but here we are. As strange as these words feel on our tongues, they are not as uncommon in the Bible. For example, Psalm 91 speaks directly to the notion of plague or pestilence three times, boldly claiming, “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” (v. 3), “You will not fear . . . the pestilence that stalks in darkness” (v. 6), and finally, “No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (v. 10). While we as Christians glory in the declarations of the psalm, we can’t help but notice the current “plague” creeping ever closer to our neighborhoods and homes. Does Psalm 91 make promises that are not being fulfilled? How do we read Psalm 91 during a global pandemic?

Images of Comfort

While the original setting that gave rise to this psalm eludes us, the first-person statement in v. 2 reveals that the author speaks these words of hope and comfort as one who has personally experienced refuge and security by trusting in God in the midst of fearful circumstances. Indeed, Psalm 91 opens with a beautiful picture of God’s people dwelling in the shelter and shadow of the Lord. We are thrust into a metaphorical world where God is a refuge, God is a fortress, God’s faithfulness is a shield, and God even has wings that provide security.

The important thing to remember here is that the psalmist is creating figurative relationships between God and the created world that forge a new reality for the fearful. These creative images draw us out of our fear-entrenched perceptions into a new world that redefines our source of protection and peace. Verse 3 plays into this figurative imagery by likening us to a bird that will escape the net of the “fowler,” a term used to describe a bird-catcher in ancient times. In a parallel line, we are told “he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.” Just as the first line of this verse should be understood as figurative language communicating a general picture of deliverance, so should the second.

The mention of pestilence in v. 6 is also imbedded in a poetic structure that leads us away from forcing the language into a straightforward reading. Verses 5 and 6 are in a parallel structure that looks like this:

A – You will not fear the terror of the night,

B – nor the arrow that flies by day

A’ – nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

B’ – nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

The intentional parallel between night and day in v. 5 is picked up and developed in v. 6 with the ideas of darkness and noonday. Poetically, phrases like “night and day” or “dark and light” are called merisms. A merism is when an author poetically uses opposite terms to figuratively communicate a total or complete concept. Consequently, like the reference in v. 3, the language of v. 6 should not be stripped of its poetic and figurative quality.

Read the rest here.

Prizing Prayer’s Privilege

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Prizing Prayer’s Privilege

I recently finished an unhurried, two-year exploration of Psalm 119. It was not my intention to hang out in those pages for so long. I initially came to it looking for a good Scripture memory assignment for our family. I knew Psalm 119 contained verses about Scripture memory and Bible reading, and I thought it would be great for us to learn those verses together, in context.

Other than that, my thoughts on Psalm 119 were this: It’s long. It’s repetitive. It speaks in generalities and seems to say the same things over and over.

But the Word of God is active and alive. Once our family memorized the first sixteen verses by singing them together (one of my favorite memorization tools!), I realized that Psalm 119 was so much more than repetitious and the means to an end of Bible-reading discipline. This was a private conversation I was overhearing. The Psalmist (most scholars feel that the writer was David) was engaged with God in secret prayer, and I was listening in. I wanted to milk each word for the beauty it held.

Simple Prayer

Have you ever been in earshot of someone whose public praying drew you into communion with God, too? The way they approach Him, speaking statements of faith that are shaped by the Scriptures, and even the things they thank Him for and ask Him for demonstrate that this person is on speaking terms with God. I have. It’s just one more beautiful way that God uses the Body to build up the faith of His people. I leave church reflecting on the prayer of a fellow saint as much as I do the sermon.

This experience is similar to what I discovered in Psalm 119. I see a man who knows how to be forthright about who he is without being self-righteous. He speaks of his great weakness, frailty, and life troubles without indulging in self-pity. He tells, without fear of disapproval, of his joys and sufferings. He lays every card on the table in complete honesty before God. He persistently asks for mercy for what should be the fear of every one of us—not to be left to himself. This man was keenly aware of the deceptive ways of his own heart.

I came to understand Psalm 119 as relentless, not repetitive. It is enduring and passionate in affirmations, resolutions, and simple requests to be delivered from the evil without and the evil within. The Psalmist wastes no words:

  • “I am yours; save me” (v. 94).
  • “Let your hand me ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts” (v. 173).
  • “Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!” (v. 154).
  • “Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law” (v. 153).
  • “When will you comfort me?” (v. 82).
  • “How long must your servant endure” (v. 84).

This is prayer that nourishes faith and hope and strengthens the soul. This is prayer that changes how we process life. The Psalmist has a vivid sense of how God’s good purposes work out, and he experiences hope and comfort alongside the painful realities of his life. Dozens of times he rejoices, delights, gives thanks, and sings praises. His pain drives him outward, hoping in God, rather than inward to despondency toward his circumstances.

When We Don’t Want to Pray

At times, our minds are empty, our hearts are cold, and we do not want to pray. Our Bibles become routine, and we see nothing new there. The Psalmist also spoke about this in verse 18: “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” He knew the temptation to become duty-driven only in prayer, as well as hooked on worldly distractions (v. 37). He recognizes that he is susceptible to focusing on the wrong things.

Read the rest here.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.

The Shepherd Psalm Trilogy

This is a wonderful article from GraceThruFaith.

The diligent student will discover glimpses of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. Many of these require the insight gained from the New Testament to be recognizable, but a reasonable amount of study will enable most students to give a persuasive presentation of the Messiah using Old Testament passages exclusively. This is the way Messianic believers convert their Jewish brethren, since Jews don’t recognize the New Testament’s authority as Scripture.

Perhaps their most often used passage, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, is actually the last of the four so-called Servant Songs of the Messiah. The other three are Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-7, and 50:4-9. These four passages present as complete a picture of the Messiah as you’ll find anywhere in Scripture, Old Testament or New.

But my favorite selection of Old Testament Messianic Scripture is the Shepherd Psalm Trilogy, Psalms 22, 23, and 24. In these three Psalms we find the three specific roles of the Messiah, cast in terms of the Shepherd’s responsibilities.

Read the rest here.

Praying Psalms 34 – 36

Have you ever prayed the Psalms? This post by Pauline of Uniquely Designed 4 Purpose is a wonderful example as she prays Psalms 34 – 36 for us.  This was originally published at The Isaiah 53:5 Project on August 14, 2015.

Praying Psalms 34 – 36

By PAULINE on AUGUST 14, 2015

Hallelujah! Glory to Your Name, O God, for You alone are worthy of all our praise! Father, we bless You at all times and the praises of who You are will continually and always be on our tongues and upon our lips because You are a good and gracious God to those who walk upright before You.

Father, we will make our boast in You, for You are the Lord our God who hears the desperations of our hearts. You are the Lord our God whose Angel always encamps around those who humble themselves before You. You are our Abba, You are our Daddy and our Papa and when we approach You with our requests, You will provide the need and not the want.

Read the rest here.

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