day 17 (trek 2): put a psalm in my heart

Read Psalm 44-46 today with me, won’t you, and sketch something from your reading in your Bible’s margin, too?

Morning. Psalm 44. A sword.

“… not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. … not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us” (44.3,6-7)

Mid-day. Psalm 45. Oil.

“… your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (45.6-7)

Tonight. Psalm 46. A spear.

“… behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.” (46.8-9)

day 17 – put a psalm in my heart

We have three very different kinds of psalms for our reading today (Psalm 44-46) and we start off with the most difficult of the three.

Morning. Are you frustrated with God? You’ve heard what he’s done for people before a bazillion times. You feel like you’ve largely done right by him. And yet, what you have goin’ on now is what you get for it?! You say you can relate somewhat to most of the book of Job? Well then, Psalm 44 is your psalm. If Job is about an individual baffled by God, Ps. 44 is about a entire people group who feel this way. Think of Ps. 44 as a Cliff Note version of Job and taken to the power of twelve. We’ve encountered something a bit like this already in the psalms (cf. Ps. 12,14), but this psalm takes it to a whole new level for unlike Job, there is no resolution of things at the end, just profound silence on the part of God. This psalm is pure, passionate, uncensored, and collective complaint, grief, and lament. This makes it worthy of the designation of the first true community psalm of grief/lament in the book of Psalms.

And here’s something not to overlook. The apostle Paul embraces and quotes (vs.22) this extremely difficult and dark psalm, placing it as a part of the centerpiece of what is surely one of the most inspiring and faith-building passages in all of Scripture (cf. Rom. 8.36)! Paul acknowledges all the realities of Ps. 44 and yet, not only goes on with God, but soars in wonder and delight of him (Rom. 8.31-39). And, honest to God, that is what we’re to do with our great griefs and bafflement with God and his ways.

Mid-day. Do you recall seeing televised scenes of a royal wedding? Words like “extravagant,” “majestic,” and “lavish” simply fail to describe it all, don’t they? Well, that appears to be the original context of Psalm 45, a kingship (aka: royal) psalm. We’ve met several of these psalms already, too (Ps. 2,18,20,21), and they’re intended to be be handled with slack-jaw silence over the power and purity of God.

Don’t miss this, either. The author of Hebrews quotes vs.6-7 as something like the centerpiece of their list of quotations near the start of their letter (Heb. 1.8-9) … about Cosmic King Jesus, the Son of God.

Tonight. Have you ever been uplifted by the thought that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble?” Well, know then that such comes from Psalm 46. This psalm is what is known as a Zion psalm and it is the first psalm of this type we’ve come across thus far, but we’ll encounter more of them in days to come (cf. Ps. 48,76,84,87,122). A Zion psalm celebrates God in “the holy place where the Most High dwells” (vs. 4) for “God is within her” and so “she will not fall.” (vs. 5)

One observation. You can’t help but note how this psalm is punctuated with the appearance of the word Selah (vs.3,7,11). We met this word on occasion in the first book (Ps. 1-41) of psalms (Ps. 9,20,21,24,32,39), but we’ll encounter Selah many more times where we are now, the second book (Ps. 42-72) of psalms (Ps. 44,46-50,52,54-55,57,59-62,66-68). And what does Selah mean? Let no one tell you differently: we don’t know for sure. However, it is most likely a notation for some sort of interlude, whether musical or silent, for the purpose of reflection on what has just been conveyed – and through our own reflection, even experienced – in the psalm. If Ps. 44 speaks to us of a deeply troubling silence that has come to us, the occurrence of the word Selah in Ps. 46 (and everywhere else) reminds us to make some silence for ourselves and deliberately live in it.