day 47 – put a psalm in my heart

Today, uncommon wisdom speaks to us as thanks is given, invitation made, and a party begun (Psalm 116-118).*

This morning we read Psalm 116 and listen to a joyful one offer up a thanksgiving celebration. As we do so, we’re wisely reminded of something we may not think of often at all:

“The Lord protects the unwary …” (vs. 6)

At noon we read Psalm 117 and give our attention to an excited herald declaring a global invitation. In so doing, something we may take for granted is insight-fully emphasized:

“… extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us …” (vs. 1b-2a)

Tonight we read Psalm 118 and hear an elated king speak in a victory procession. And this is surely so that we might never forget in whom we place our true faith and find our security:

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. … The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” (vs. 8,14)

* Note: Portions of all three of these psalms are quoted in the NT (Ps. 116.10; 117.1; 118.6,22-23,25-26). Jesus’ use of Ps. 118.22-23 is especially striking for the context in which Jesus quotes it (Matt. 21.42; Mk. 12.10-11; Lk. 20.17) is very much like the context of the psalm itself – a king surrounded by enemies that constantly swarm about him like bees (vs. 11-13; cf. Matt. 21.12.15,23,45-46; Mk. 12.12-13,18; Lk. 20.1-2,19-20,27).

day 46 – put a psalm in my heart

Today we consider a sanctuary alive with the living God and people who are as dead as their gods (Psalm 114-115).

This morning we read Psalm 114. And as we do so, we see nothing can stand in the way of the God who has determined to make for himself a people of his own. Even the most immovable of matter, sea and mountain, turn back and leap at his command and so nothing can stand in the way of his having his people. God has set up his home and his home is in and among his people.

“When Israel came out of Egypt … Judah became God’s sanctuary …” (vs. 1-2)

He is with us. Let us remember this when we feel as if God is distant or diminished.

Tonight we read Psalm 115 and are struck with the insensibility of those who claim to be sensible. Some look at the “evidence” and mock asking us where our God is now, all the while oblivious to the dead and nothing gods they have made for themselves and in whom they still vainly place their trust. We, however, have eyes to see the blessings of God to come and remain undeterred in giving him praise.

He is for us. Let us not forget these things whenever we are insulted or injured because we believe.

“… their idols … have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. … hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound … Those who make them will be like them …” (vs. 4-8)

And so:

“… it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord.”

day 45 – put a psalm in my heart

Today we’re reminded of the importance how we begin, and why we do, everything: we praise the Lord (Psalm 110-113).

Morning: read Psalm 110.* Consider who the Lord is, greater and stronger than any.

Our Lord rules over all.

Noon: read Psalm 111-112. Consider how what our Lord does affects his people and all others.

Our Lord brings blessing through his will and ways.

Evening: read Psalm 113. Consider what the Lord does for those who are weakest.

Our Lord notices all and stoops to serve any.

* Note: Psalm 110 is the psalm most frequently referenced and quoted by other writers in Scripture. In fact, nearly no OT text is channeled more often in the NT.

day 44 – put a psalm in my heart

Today, we wake up making music and bringing song to the Lord … and then we go to bed having had a very difficult time with the day (Psalm 108-109).

This morning we read Psalm 108. We know times like this and – dare I say it, and say it this way? – live for them. We wake up with a heart full of love for, and joy in, the Lord. A song is in our heart and we praise our great God (vs. 1-2,4-5). We think of good we can do for others and how we’ll speak of God’s goodness to them (vs. 3). Sure, we’re plainly aware of great troubles around and within us (vs. 6-12), but those things now appear more clearly in focus, much smaller and weaker than we had seen them before. And why is that? Because we have a confident spirit of faith in our God today. Our motto today is indelibly embossed on our mind:

“With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” (vs. 13)

But, tonight we read Psalm 109. And we know times such as these, too, don’t we? God appears to be silent to us, unresponsive to what we have had to say to him (vs. 1). Further, as the heavens appear to be closed to us now, simultaneously the earth is opening up all around and beneath us as human relationships suddenly turn exceedingly dark and go bad for us (vs. 2-3a). We’re mystified and deeply hurt, for we can make no sense of it all (vs. 3b). We believed we had only tried to be a true friend to others and prayed for them steadily, but now they’re on the outs with us, and even at odds with us (vs. 4-5). Our head reels and our wounded spirit refuses to stop bleeding.

And things then grow even worse for us. Our hurts are so deep and the pain inflicted on us only intensifies and continues. Dark thoughts start to cloud our gray matter and begin to completely re-color even how we now talk to God, our God, the God who has been so seemingly silent toward us (vs. 6-20).

And then, like a thin shaft of light, some great sense breaks through in our spirit and so, we do the only sensible thing: we cry out to God and say,

“Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.” (vs. 26)

Having reached this point, we can now begin to deal with the horrors in our heart, rather than allowing them to have their way with us. And so, we get up and begin a journey back to God in praise of him (vs. 26-31). Whereas before we just wanted to find a cave and wall ourselves off from the hurts inflicted on us by others, now we determine to emerge and praise afresh the God who calls us to trust him anyway. We rejoin the journey with God and determine to do so with with others, knowing full well the risks of such anyway. And so we declare afresh with faith:

“With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.” (vs. 30)

Given the choice, which one of us wouldn’t rather simply live only with the morning’s experience? No one wants to take the evening’s path! But, they feed each other, no? Psalm 108 emerges from times such as Psalm 109, just as surely as Psalm 109 follows times like Psalm 108. Such is the long and winding road through the valley of the shadow of death … which the Good Shepherds sees us through, if we will only continue to have eyes to see him and remain on the journey with him.

Amen. And amen.

day 42 – put a psalm in my heart

Today, the history lover in us continues to relish reflection on what God does for his people … but grieves over of what history tells us we tend to do with him (Psalm 106).

The previous psalm (Ps. 105) ended with a notice of why there is a record of God’s dealing with us and why we’re to rehearse them again and again. “…that they [we] might keep his precepts and observe his laws. Praise the Lord.” (105.45) However, sadly, Ps. 106 relates that both we and those who have gone before us, often fail in this, our mission. We need to be reminded and warned of just how weak and prideful we all are and how we cannot ever afford to ignore or try to live without our Maker and Sustainer.

Perhaps it will help to hear all of this with the words of an old hymn in our head, a hymn that echoes many of this psalm’s same expressions and prayers. The song is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.

Morning: read Psalm 106.1-5. Let us act justly, ever doing what is right. Or, as in the words of the old hymn: “Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease. Take from our souls the strain and stress, and and let our ordered lives confess, the beauty of thy peace.”

Mid-day: read Psalm 106.6-46. Oh, our foolish ways! “Breathe through the heats of our desire, Thy coolness and thy balm. Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire. Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire. O still small voice of calm.

Tonight: read Psalm 106.47-48.* Lord, do re-clothe us in our rightful mind. Once more, the old hymn says it well: “Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways. Re-clothe us in our rightful mind; in purer lives thy service find. In deeper reverence praise.”

* Note: As today’s evening’s reading is so brief – yet powerful! – and since it collects and connects with Ps. 105, consider taking the time to read Psalm 105-106 as one reading, in review, with an ever so brief Selah (a pause for reflection) between 105 and 106. These two psalms simply go together so well, almost like a two-volume work.

day 41 – put a psalm in my heart

Today, the history lover in us comes out to play as we read and reflect on Psalm 105.

This morning: read Psalm 105.1-15. God’s people must be lovers of history for history is the record of God’s dealing with people and reveals who he is in attitude and action. As we recount with each other what he has specifically done, we are moved to praise him, sing to him, glory in him, look to him, and remember him all the more. We are called to recall and remember because we’re to be like him and he is the God who remembers and recalls his people:

“Remember the wonders he has done … He remembers his covenant forever …” (vs. 5,8)

And so, too, let us not forget that to “remember,” as Scripture uses the term, is to “act” (vs. 8-44).*

Mid-day: read Psalm 105.16-42. As we rehearse what God has been doing, we realize there are portions of that history that stand out to us. Those moments function as milestones along our way with him. These markers are not disjointed or unrelated, but are divinely linked to one another.

As you read this remembrance of some of Israel’s history, what portion of the record are seen as major milestones and dwelt upon? That is, what specific portions of the Pentateuch and Joshua (e.g. – God’s guidance in the wilderness as told in Num. 9.15-16; 11.31-32; 20.2-13) do you see brought up here to ponder?

Ask yourself: if you were to write a record of God’s dealings with you through the course of your life, what milestones would you record, and with a mind tilted toward the benefit of others who came after you who would see your record about his work?

Tonight: read Psalm 105.43-45. The purpose for reviewing our history is to remember about how God remembers his promises, how he brings rescue and deliverance to his people, and how he gives to us, generously so, over and over again. And all of that is to this end, of course:

“… that they [we] might keep his precepts and observe his laws. Praise the Lord.” (vs. 45)

So be it.

* Note: You’ll find vs. 1-5 repeated in 1 Chronicles 16.8-22.

day 39 – put a psalm in my heart

We go birding today and as we do so, we perceive a connection between matters many of us have largely forgotten or … have even come to deny.

Those who penned the psalms had a sense of connection with nature far unlike most of us moderns. When they sought to express to others how things were with them, it was most natural for them to point to likenesses of themselves they perceived in the world around them. They felt as if they could relate to creatures and creation, and communicated so.

Not so much us, as we have built a huge wall between the natural world and the matters of spirit (be it our own or the Holy Spirit). Whereas the psalmists leaned much more toward an inclusive understanding of nature and our nature, we tend to default in our thinking toward an exclusive perspective that establishes deliberate, distinct, and deep boundaries between humankind and the rest of creation. We think: there’s “our world” and then “everything else out there.” The psalmists held a different view: “This is my Father’s world and it is a part of me as surely as I am a part of it.”

Such differences stand out to us in the psalms we read today (Psalm 102-103).

This morning – Psalm 102. “… my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.” (vs. 3-7)

Here, two lonely birds speak to, and speak of, the loneliness of a soul ravaged with great troubles, both in bones and heart, body and spirit (vs. 3-11).

TonightPsalm 103. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (vs. 1-6)

Here, the process by which an eagle loses its old feathers and grows a host of new ones far better suited for its age and experiences (molting) is expressive to the psalmist of how he is anything but alone for  the Lord himself who brings many marvelous and good things into their life.

Father, Creator God, break into our mind and tear down the walls we daily erect that separate what you care for as one. Deliver us from putting asunder what you have joined together: theology and ecology. As surely as you promise a resurrection body to go with our redeemed soul, and as surely as you vow to redeem all things to yourself, help us to see all you have made as revelation to us and ourselves as revelation of you to the angels who watch and all the cosmos, too. Amen.