Week 42: Psalms 119:113-176

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Reading: Psalms 119:113-176

This week we read the last third of Psalm 119.

Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week.  As we read, let us not do so in haste.  Take time to read each Psalm at least three times:  once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life.   There is a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.

 

Psalm 119 consists of 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Each line within a section starts with the same letter.  This week we will look at sections 15-22.  James Luther Mays explains that this is an instructional Psalm.  Creation is the classroom (vs.17,23,124f).  The students are the servants of God (vs. 97-100).  Learning is the way of life (vs. 9-16).  As children of God, let us be learners.

                Samekh: verses 113-120.  These verses articulate mostly loyalty and trust.  Intermingled in the words of trust we hear of opposition.  And, as always, it is necessary to pray for life.

                Ayin: verses 121-128.  This section contains mostly complaints.  The petitions in verses 121-122 imply the complaint which is then voiced directly in verse 123.  Verse 128 indicates that the psalmist has not become totally disoriented as he or she awaits God’s help.   Verse 127 indicates the psalmist has already received a reward that is greater than the material wealth oppressors might gain by their dishonest ways: the love of God’s revelation, which constitutes life.

                Pe: verses 129-136.  Here the psalmist asserts that it is God’s “justice” to be gracious.  This assertion reinforces the psalmist’s conviction that his or her life depends ultimately on God’s mercy and love.  The petitions indicate that the psalmist entrusts life to God, depending on God for guidance, liberation from oppression, and illumination.

                Tsadhe: verses 137-144.   The key word in this section is “righteousness.”  God is righteous (vs. 137,142) and God’s decrees are righteous (v. 144).  The word “righteousness” is used elsewhere to describe the policy that God wills and enacts as ruler of the universe.  In keeping with the conviction of God’s universal reign, the psalmist proclaims that God’s righteousness is “everlasting”/”forever.”  As a servant, one who recognizes God’s sovereignty, the psalmist is bothered by the same thing that bothers God: disloyalty.  The section ends with a petition that indicates again the psalmist’s dependence upon God for life and future. 

                Ooph: verses 145-152.  “Save me” cries the psalmist.  The chronological references in verses 147-148 emphasize that the psalmist is in constant conversation with God.  As always, the psalmist looks to God’s steadfast love and justice for life.  And as always, this is necessary because of the presence of opposition.

                Resh: verses 153-160.  This section begins with and is dominated by petition, especially the one that pervades the psalm: “give me life.”  This plea is associated with God’s mercy/compassion and steadfast love, as well as with God’s justice.  As affirmed throughout, God’s justice ultimately takes the form of merciful love.  The righteousness God intends will be effected ultimately by God’s faithful love.

                Sin and Shin: verses 161-168.  Although this section starts with a complaint, it moves quickly to expressions of joy and commitment.  It is not clear whether the “seven times” is meant literally or whether it is figurative for something like “all day long.”  The one persecuted without cause knows simultaneously “great peace” and security.  The faithful life inevitably involves both home and the present experience of God.

 

                Taw: verses 169-176.  The final section contains several pleas that by this point are familiar: pleas for understanding, for grace, for help, as well as the all-embracing plea for life.  The psalmist anticipates and promises praise, but it is striking, especially in view of all the expressions of loyalty and obedience throughout the psalm, that the psalmist includes in the final verse another plea for help that follows what sounds like a confession of sin.  The last verse of 119, therefore, is a final reminder of what the psalmist has affirmed all along: The faithful are saved by grace.  Their lives and their futures belong to God (see Luke 15:1-7).

 

 

               

 

 

Song

This is the Psalm in hymn form.  Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension. 

 

 

 

 

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Week 41: Psalms 119:57-112

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Reading: Psalms 119:57-112

This week we read the second third of Psalm 119.

Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week.  As we read, let us not do so in haste.  Take time to read each Psalm at least three times:  once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life.   There is a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.

 

Psalm 119 consists of 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Each line within a section starts with the same letter.  This week we will look at sections 8-14.  James Luther Mays explains that this is an instructional Psalm.  Creation is the classroom (vs.17,23,124f).  The students are the servants of God (vs. 97-100).  Learning is the way of life (vs. 9-16).  As children of God, let us be learners.

                Heth: verses 57-64.  The word “portion” in verse 57 designates elsewhere the allotment of land that each Israelite, except priests and Levites, was supposed to have (Num. 18:20; Josh. 15:13, 18:7, 19:9).  To entrust one’s life and future to God—in effect, to have God as one’s portion—is to never be without a home.  This means praise is possible at all times (vs. 62), even in distress (vs. 61).  To have God as one’s portion means that nothing—not time, not place, not circumstance—can separate one from God’s steadfast love (vs. 64; Rom. 8:38-39).

                Teth: verses 65-72.  The key word here is “good” or “well”—each of these verses begins with that word.  God’s goodness is celebrated amid current affliction. Verse 67 implies that the psalmist once felt the affliction was divine punishment.   But that can no longer be true because the psalmist is now faithful and obedient and the affliction persists.  One’s motivation, therefore, cannot be fear of retribution, but the conviction that genuine life is found in openness to God’s instruction and reliance on God’s help.  No amount of material reward can truly constitute life (vs. 72; Luke 12:15).

                Yodh: verses 73-80.  The psalmist’s profession that he or she belongs to God, life is in God’s hands, becomes the basis for the petitions in verses 76-80.  Israel constantly stood in need of God’s steadfast love    (v 76) and mercy/compassion (v 77).  Only God could comfort (v 76; see vs. 50, 52; Isa 40:1-2).  Fortunately, steadfast love and mercy lie at the very heart of God’s character.  As the psalmist recognizes, his or her life depended on it (v 77).  To be “blameless” (v 80) can mean nothing other than to be forgiven.

                Kaph: verses 81-88.   The petition of verses 76-80 gives way to the most extended and bitter complaint in the psalm.  The urgency is underlined by the threefold occurrence of the verb meaning “to fail,” “to be finished,” to be spent.”  The questions in verse 84 are essentially a plea for help.  The entire section portrays the psalmist’s existence as a suffering servant.  Not surprisingly, verse 85 recalls Jer. 18-20, 22, the prayer of another servant who suffered precisely because he was an instrument of God’s word.

                Lamedh: verses 89-96.  From the depth of the last section, the psalmist moves to exaltation.   Here is a profession of faith in God’s sovereignty for all time, in all places (vs. 89-90), and over “all things” (v 91).  There will never be a time when the psalmist will be self-sufficient: he or she will always depend upon God.

                Mem: verses 97-104.   Following the section on exaltation, we now have an effusive expression of love for and joy in Torah (esp. see vs. 97, 103), and in the effects of God’s instruction (esp. vs. 98, 100, 104).    The exclamations in verses 97 and 103 are downright sensual: the psalmist is in love with God’s revelation.  The correlate of loving God’s Torah is hating “every false way (v 104). 

                Nun: verses 105-112.  As if to indicate again that human life never stands beyond threat, or beyond the need for God’s help, these verses return to complaint and petition.  But the section starts with a memorable profession in verse 105: God’s revelation is the truly reliable guide to life.  As is the case throughout Psalm 119 eloquent expressions of trust like verse 105 juxtaposed with complaint.  Then verse 111 offers another expression of trust.  As we noted before, “portion” often refers to the land allotted to the Israelite tribes.  The psalmist affirms that God’s revelation itself guarantees a future.

 

               

 

 

Song

This is the Psalm in hymn form.  Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 40: Psalms 119:1-56

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Reading: Psalms 119:1-56

This week we read the first third of Psalm 119.

Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week.  As we read, let us not do so in haste.  Take time to read each Psalm at least three times:  once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life.   There is a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.

 

Psalm 119 consists of 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Each line within a section starts with the same letter.  This week we will look at the first 7 sections.  James Luther Mays explains that this is an instructional Psalm.  Creation is the classroom (vs.17,23,124f).  The students are the servants of God (vs. 97-100).  Learning is the way of life (vs. 9-16).  As children of God, let us be learners.

                Aleph: verses 1-8.  Verses 1-8 convey the sense that the psalmist continually seeks God, which means seeking new and deeper understanding of how God intends justice and righteousness to be enacted in the world.  He or she does not always succeed.  But it is in the striving that the psalmist draws closer to God.

                Beth: verses 9-16.  Purity comes from Studying and internalizing God’s word.  This concept of the word goes beyond the written Word to include God’s communication beyond those pages (1 Kings:11; 12:20; Jer. 1:4; Ezek. 1:3).  The psalmist is open to both God’s past and future revelation.  Verse 11 is reminiscent of Jer. 31:33, a verse in which God promises to write “instruction” on the people’s hearts.  The implication is that the psalmist has more to learn, and God has more to reveal.

                Gimel: verses 17-24.  This section begins with a petition to God in verses 17-18, then moves to the complaint in verses 19.   The enemies are listed in verses 21-23.  The desire to see “wondrous things” suggests the need for deliverance, as does the psalmists description of his or her “alien” status.  The plight described in verses 17-24 is one which the exilic and post-exilic generations could have readily identified, but it is also one that regularly confronts the people of God in all ages.

                Daleth: verses 25-32.   The psalmist continues his or her complaint in this section.  “Dust” denotes death and stresses the urgency of the situation.  “Life”, also translated “revive”, can be found only in God’s “word.”  The idea of revival or resurrection is continued in verse 28 where the psalmists plead to stand again.  Even as the writer’s soul clings to the dust in verse 25, he or she expresses the intent to cling to God’s revelation.  God’s word is life.

                He: verses 33-40.  God is the teacher.  The psalmist prays that God’s instructions permeate his or her whole being and that the writer is not distracted by “selfish gain” (verse 34), or “worthless things” (verse 37).  The Hebrew word sometimes implies idolatry.  Therefore, only God is sovereign—not the self or other gods.  Those who deny God’s sovereignty may “scorn” the psalmist (verse 22; the word “disgrace” in verse 39 is from the same Hebrew root), but the psalmist remains oriented to God and convinced that only God can “give me life” (vs. 37, 40).  It is clear that life is a gift to be received rather than a reward to be earned.

                Waw: verses 41-48.   Although petition continues in verses 41 and 43, the dominant theme here is assurance based on trust and hope.  To trust God’s word (v. 42) is to trust God’s very self, the essence of which God revealed to be steadfast love (see Exod. 34:6; Ps. 5:7, 13:5).  The psalmist may still be taunted (v. 42; same Hebrew word as “scorn” in v. 22 and “disagree” is v. 39), but lives joyfully by trusting the truth that sets people free.

                Zayin: verses 49-56.  The theme of this section is remembrance.  Remembrance does not suddenly eliminate suffering or the existence of the wicked.  As is always the case, memory is inseparable from hope (v. 49); together they are a source of comfort.  It is always the case that the faithful live inevitably by hope.

               

 

 

Song

This is the Psalm in hymn form.  Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October 2017 Issue of The Narthex

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Week 39: Psalms 115-118

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Reading: Psalms 115-118

           Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week.  As we read, let us not do so in haste.  Take time to read each Psalm at least three times:  once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life.   There will often be a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.

 

PSALM 115: Trust In the Lord

                Psalm 115 begins and ends with a focus on the community–“us” and “we”.  But in each case, the community looks beyond itself.  In its intent to glorify and bless God, the community denies itself; it renounces reliance upon itself and its own resources and places its trust in God (vs. 9-11).  Such humbling of self, it trusts, will be its exaltation (vs. 12-15; see Luke 18:14).  Trust in God sets the community apart from the surrounding nations who make and worship idols.

 

PSALM 116: What Shall I Return to the Lord?

                Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving by one whose prayer for help has been answered.   A narrative of salvation is the heart of the song.  In joyful thanksgiving, the psalmist praises the Lord in the temple and brings a thanksgiving sacrifice.  The psalm is a testimony to a god who helps those who cannot help themselves.  It invites, not self-reliance, but dependence upon God. 

 

PSALM 117: All You Nations

                This is the littlest psalm of all, but it thinks on a grand scale.  The little hymn has hardly graduated from the class of the one word “halleluiah,” but it takes a giant step in its development.  A worship that includes the world’s population is envisioned.  The nations and their many peoples are called to praise the Lord.  Psalm 117 invites us to a conversation with persons of other faiths or of no faith at all.  We enter this dialogue to represent the truth as we perceive it but also to learn from other traditions and practices.  The goal is the effort itself to speak honestly and listen carefully to a variety of persons who, as Psalm 117 suggests, are also children of God.

 

PSALM 118: The One Who Comes in the Name of the Lord

                The One who comes makes the most marvelous statement: “I shall not die but live.”  The celebration that the Lord did not give him over to death is hailed as the day the Lord made.  Because of his deliverance. The people of the Lord renew their confession that the Lord is God.  The early Christian community identified the speaker in verses 5-18, 28 as Jesus.   According to the Gospels, when Jesus entered Jerusalem shortly before his crucifixion, he was greeted by a crowd in a manner reminiscent of Psalm 118.  In Mark 11:9, the first part of the greeting consists of Psalm 118:25a, 26a.  Verses 22-23 were understood within first-century Judaism to refer to the Messiah.  In fact, Matthew 21:42 cites these verses to suggest that Jesus is the rejected Messiah.

 

 

Song

This is the Psalm in hymn form.  Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just getting started?  Find our reading schedule here

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