Seeing God Through the Psalms
I Love Your Word!
On Tuesdays we are going to be looking at one of the themes from the longest Psalm, Psalm 119. This psalm tends to scare readers off because of its length and its depth, but do not be discouraged. Follow along and we will discover some of its secrets together!
The first theme is love of Law. Psalm 119 is basically a love poem to the law (vv. 47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 159, 163, 167 to name a few). This theme might sound strange at first, but the psalmist finds the law so outrageously loveable because it belongs to God. Since the law is distinctly God’s law, and comes right from his mouth, it is better than anything else, including heaps of treasure (v. 72, 127) and delicious honey (v. 103).
The notion of “law,” however, goes much further than just the Ten Commandments. “The law” is an expansive idea for the writer of Psalm 119. It is nearly impossible to read even a single verse of this psalm without bumping into it. That’s because the idea of “the law” is described by lots of different words in Psalm 119, including “commandments,” “precepts,” “ways,” “testimonies,” “ordinances,” “judgments,” “statutes,” and—most popular of them all—“words.” Only seven verses in this psalm do not mention this “law” idea in some way.
The psalmist is writing about his incredible love for anything God says. Whether actual commandments, or blessings, or prophecies, or decisions, or stories—whatever God says to his people, it’s utterly loveable. Every scrap of what God reveals in speech is priceless, including his rules. And words beget words, as God’s communication throws the psalmist into extended poetic rhapsody. As it should for us! These are the Words of the creator of all existence and He recorded this for you and I to read so that we may be able to come to an understanding of who He is and what He expects for His people.
The psalm opens with the call: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” We have a song in our hymnals entitled, “The New Song.” What does it mean to sing a new song?
In one sense, the “New Song” is referred to throughout Scripture, as a response of praise from God’s people, worshipping God for His salvation (see Psalm 33:3, 40:3; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3).
Notice what God is being praised for here –
- His Salvation (v. 2)
- His wonderful deeds (v. 3)
- Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised (v. 4)
- He is the creator (v. 5)
- He is clothed and surrounded with splendor, majesty, strength and beauty (v. 6)
- He is our righteous judge (v. 10)
- He is coming to judge the world (v. 13)
It is praising God for who He is, and what He has done – specifically to the saving/redeeming of His people.
But here’s another thought to consider. One author wrote, “Fresh mercies demand fresh expressions of thanksgiving.” We know about that idea of fresh – alive, healthy, vibrant. When something grows stale we feel the need to “liven” it up. We use words like “renew” or “reinvigorate” to describe bringing a breath of life into something that has lost it’s fervor.
This can happen. Songs of praise that are sung out of duty rather devotion, out of tradition rather than thanksgiving, can turn the heartfelt vibrant praise into an empty and meaningless dirge. Has worship become stale to you? Do you notice that your “heart isn’t in it?” Do you need to bring some life to the song you are singing to God?
The answer is not in a literal new song or hymn. It’s not in changing the aesthetics of the building (dim the lights, mood music, etc.). Read through this Psalm again. Look at v. 2 – proclaim the tidings of His salvation – i.e. YOUR salvation, from day to day. If there’s anything that can never lose it’s meaning, it’s the Lord’s salvation. Jesus – the plan, the mission, the cross, the blood, the empty grave, the sins of my past forgiven, the stains of my heart washed away, the hope of Heaven, the victory over the grave – HALLELUJAH!
Sing the salvation of the Lord! Sing the new song – with a fresh voice, and a fresh spirit, sing renewed – sing to the Lord – bless His name!
Lord of Heaven and Earth, Lord of glory and of strength, You are great, and greatly to be praised. Truly splendor and majesty are before You. You dwell in strength and beauty. I praise You and thank You for Your wonderful deeds – the gift of life, promise of Your coming, and most importantly, Your salvation. For Jesus, for the plan You formed from long ago, for the cross – the death of Your Son, for not giving up on me, offering me a gift I truly do not deserve – the forgiveness of my sins – the hope of Heaven, Father though it seems not enough, thank You. I praise You. May my song always seem as new, as genuine, as heartfelt, for Great are You Lord, and Greatly to be praised. I love You.
The One Who Is Blessed
Psalms 1 is a familiar Psalm to most. It is easily seen as a Psalm of contrast between two very different walks of life: the godly versus ungodly; the happy versus the miserable.
This Psalm gives us the secret of a blessed man. The blessed man is in fellowship with God. He can be seen by what he does not do, as well as what he does. He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. He does not stand in the path of the sinners. He does not sit in the seat of the scoffers. Notice the progressive deterioration. It is a process of gradual erosion and movement in the wrong direction until finally, we settle on a permanent place with our surroundings. What once use to bother us no longer moves us. Lot and Samson are examples of this path.
But the man is blessed not simply by what he does not do but also by what he does. It is not enough to stop doing something. We must move positively in the right direction. He delights in the law of God. He meditates on the law, day and night.
As a result, the blessed man has stability like a tree planted by the water. He is reliable, like fruit that yields in its season. He has prosperity in his walk with God, not the ungodly. The blessed man is blessed many times over, not the wicked. The godly delights and meditates upon the word, not the wicked. The godly is like a strong and solid tree, not the wicked. The godly one if fruitful and productive, not so of the wicked. The wicked are blown away like the chaff. They will not stand.
The Lord knows those who are righteous, and He knows those who are wicked.
Beware of compromise. It is easy to do while striving to live a righteous life.
1. Sin is progressive, so is righteousness. Watch your steps. They turn into a walk. The direction we walk will determine who we will be.
2. Sin requires meditation just like righteousness requires meditation. What do we think about? Think on God’s word, daily.
Peaks and valleys. There are times when our faith soars, and our trust and confidence in God seems stronger with every step. And then there are days like Psalm 77 – days that are in the dark, when the heart moans – eyes full of tears, our heads clouded with doubt and confusion. We can’t sleep (v. 4). Nothing seems to comfort us (v. 2).
Here Asaph asks 6 rhetorical questions in v. 7-8:
- Will the Lord reject forever?
- Will He never be favorable (show His favor) again?
- Has His loving kindness ceased forever?
- Has His promise come to an end forever?
- Has God forgotten to be gracious?
- Has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
What causes one to feel this way? It could be sin – and thus thinking of God only brings pain, realizing the wrong I’ve done to Him (v. 3, 9). It could be storms of life – loss of job, loss of health, loss of loved ones, harm from those around me. Isn’t it interesting that in times of trouble, the seeds of doubt begin to sow just as they did for Asaph. Does God care? Has He heard my cries? Has He given up on me?
Well what’s the answer? What do we do in these moments when God seems far away? Look what Asaph did – “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (v. 11). Rather than sinking in doubt, he chases those thoughts away by remembering what God has done before. Specifically he remembers the scene of the Red Sea, when God rescued His people from the Egyptians. When it seemed like all was lost, when there was no possible way forward, God saved His people – God provided a way.
Dark days will come. Life’s storms are inevitable. I can’t decide when those hard times will come. What I can decide is how I will navigate through those hard times – sinking in doubt or rising in faith. When those seeds of doubt start creeping in our hearts (does God care? Is He listening? Is He mad at me? Has He stopped being good to me?) – chase them away by remembering the God you KNOW! Open the Word and remember – God is good all the time. God is Faithful – He always keeps His promises. God can do all things – if He can part the waters of the Red Sea, He can part the waters and move the mountains in my life. God loves us always (Romans 5:8). God is gracious and willing to forgive those who turn from their sins.
Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. “Surely I will remember Your wonders of old…” – don’t doubt, don’t forget – remember!
Holy God, there is none like You. Your strength, Your wisdom, Your love – they cannot be measured. Father in the times my heart is tested, in the times I’m tempted to question Your goodness, to doubt Your love, help me to remember. Help me to chase those lies away with the truth – Your Truth. You saved Your people by parting the sea. I know there is nothing You cannot do. If You cared for Your people then, I trust that You care for Your people now. Whether in the green pastures or in the dark valleys, I know I am safe so long as I am with You. Blessed be Your wonderful Name.
Seeing God Through the Psalms
Have you ever heard a song that touched you? That moved you? That expressed such real emotion? There’s something powerful about music, about songs. Have you ever been so happy that you just sang or hummed a joyful tune? Have you ever felt so low that the only solace you found was in a melancholy song? Are there songs that remind you of loved ones, here or gone? Are there hymns that when you sing them, though you’ve sung them hundreds of times, they still seem to stir your soul?
One of the richest books of the Bible is the book of Psalms. It’s not a historical book, through each Psalm is wrapped in a historical context. Though found in the “Books of Wisdom”, the book of Psalms is not written like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. The Psalms are a collection of songs. What’s so endearing about these songs is that they express is such beautiful and imaginative language things we have a hard time finding the right words for. They describe God in such glorious ways. They praise God with genuine and creative fervor. They express the real, raw depth of suffering and pain – and how captivating life is when lived by faith in God.
This year, for our February Special, we’re journeying through the Psalms. We’ve selected 28 Psalms. Our hope is that through this month in the Psalms, we’ll come away with an enriched vision of God. The Psalms can help us in our worship. The Psalms can help us in our prayers. The Psalms can help us face dark days. The Psalms can help us more clearly see the majesty of the Almighty.
Journey with us with month as we read through, pray through, and sing through the Psalms.