Archives For Psalms

Palm Sunday PicPsalm 118, with its repeated hopeful refrain that the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, is important during Holy Week because:

  • The crowds quoted Psalm 118  during the  Triumphal Entry when they cried “hosanna” (Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9-10).
  • Jesus infuriated the Pharisees when he quoted Psalm 118 in the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46, cf. Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 4:20).
  • It is likely that Psalm 118 was the hymn that Jesus and the Disciples sang on Thursday night after the Last Supper before going out to the Mount of Olives.[1]

Hosanna on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11). The crowds quoted to Psalm 118 in during the Triumphal Entry when they shouted “hosanna.”

           [1] Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, [2] saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. [3] If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” [4] This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

[5] “Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

 [6] The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. [7] They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. [8] Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [9] And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” [10] And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” [11] And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)

 “Hosanna” appears only in the Old Testament is in Psalm 118:25. (See Piper’s article on Hosanna).

In Psalm 118, the words “save us” translate the Hebrew word “hosanna.” Hosanna carries the obvious meaning of a cry to God for help. But by the time we get to the Triumphal entry “hosanna” also carries the connotation of victory. We might paraphrase, “Our God will save us.”

Today we should cry out hosanna both as a petition for God to save us, but also triumphantly knowing that Jesus has won the decisive victory over death.

The Parable of the Tenants. Jesus references Psalm 118 in Matthew 21:42 in the Parable of the Tenants. The Pharisees perceived that Jesus was talking about them and did not appreciate it (Matthew 21:45-46).

 [33] “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. [34] When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. [35] And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. [36] Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. [37] Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ [38] But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ [39] And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. [40] When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” [41] They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

 [42] Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

 [43] Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. [44] And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

[45] When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. [46] And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46 ESV)

Jesus’s meaning was not lost on the Pharisees. He was identifying himself as the chief cornerstone and the Pharisees as the builders who rejected the chief cornerstone. Both Peter (1 Peter 2:7) and Paul reference our Lord’s exposition (Ephesians 2:20).

After the Last Supper. Matthew 26:30 tells us that, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Given the place of Psalm 118 in Passover, it is likely that they sang Psalm 118 together including 118:22-24.

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:22-24

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Kidner writes these introductory paragraphs for the occasion of Psalm 118:

The stir of a great occasion lends its excitement to the psalm as it proceeds, and we become aware of a single worshipper at its centre, whose progress to the Temple to offer thanks celebrates no purely private deliverance like that of Psalm 116, but a victory and vindication worthy of a king. . .

As the final psalm of the ‘Egyptian Hallel’ sung to celebrate the Passover . . . this psalm may have pictured to those who first sang it the rescue of Israel at the Exodus, and the eventual journey’s end at Mount Zion. But it was destined to be fulfilled more perfectly, as the echoes of it on Palm Sunday and the Passion Week make clear to every reader of the Gospels.[2]

[1] Kostenberger and Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, 912.

[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1975), 412–413.

[3] Piper, “Hosanna!”

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See also:

What Happened During Holy Week

John Piper’s Hosanna

Suffering with incurable cancer, J. Todd Billings points out that contemporary hymnals tend to have a far smaller proportion of laments than the book of Psalms does (Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ40).

While psalms of thanksgiving are wonderful, they are rarer in the book of Psalms than psalms of lament. Cherry-picking only the praises from the Psalms tends to shape a church culture in which only positive emotions can be expressed before God in faith. Since my diagnosis with cancer, I’ve found that my fellow Christians know how to rejoice about answered prayer and also how to petition God for help, but many don’t know what to do when I express sorrow and loss or talk about death. In some sense, this lack of affective agility in their faith is not surprising since our corporate worship has lost many of the elements that are so prominent in the psalms of lament.

Pastoral dawnOne thing have I asked of the LORD,  that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,  to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4

With singular focus (“one thing have I asked”), David’s asked that he might enjoy knowing the one true God and that he would be able to consider and appreciate the LORD’s beauty.

Craigie (232) comments that David’s prayer is one of the most single-minded statements of purpose found anywhere in the OT.

If David could submit this prayer 3,000 years ago, how much more can we on this side of Calvary! While meditating on this verse, I considered how I have seen the beauty of Christ. The following list came to mind.

I have gazed upon the beauty of Christ:

  1. In surveying the Wondrous Cross where Christ’s love and justice perfectly met. What a magnificent Savior.
  2. In Christ’s Word. Reading the Bible, memorizing it, singing it, preaching it, hearing it preached.
  3. In the Church.  People loving and laughing, serving and singing.
  4. In the faces of babies children.  Children are easily the most beautiful part of God’s creation.
  5. In the beauty of our Father’s World. The above picture is part of a collection of pictures from all 50 states. Click through to fly over all 50 states and gaze upon the beauty of what God has made.

Where have you gazed upon the beauty of Christ?

Marybeth on the day we brought her home from the hospital in December of 2002.

 

 

Two-Faced People and Psalm 28

Chris —  May 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Gerald H. Wilson on Psalm 28 and two-faced people:

In our psalm, it is interesting to note the kinds of “works” for which the psalmist’s enemies are condemned. It is not that these are murderers or thieves – – there is no indication of physical assault or robbery. Instead, they are described as “two-faced” or deceptive in their relations with others. They “speak peace” (NIV “speak cordially”) to their neighbors–expressing a concern for others well-being–while actually harboring resentments and “malice” toward those they address. This is an interior attitude of self-focus and self-concern that is not visible to those around about. Yet lack of integrity in inner thought and outer expression is one of the sinful attitudes commonly addressed in the psalms.

If you need to be moved from one place emotionally to another: (1) Identify a Psalm that relates to your experience.  (2) Systematically memorize it over a period of time.  (3) As you do so, experience the movement of the Psalm and be transported by the Spirit in conjunction with the Word.

Psalms are poetry.  This means that they are truth to be experienced.  The idea with poetry is not that we simply learn objective truth.  Rather, poetry, particularly in the case of the Word of God,  transports us through an experience.

You might respond, “Well, when I read Psalms, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

We cannot experience poetry with a quick read.  Rather, we need to hear the Words – – to reflect on them – – to prayerfully take in delight at pondering the images.  There is no better way to accomplish this than through memorization.

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But, how does one go about memorizing?  As I have posted in the past (see these posts), a system is needed.  (This post provides a concise summary of my approach).

Below are two pages from my moleskin that picture how I went about memorizing Psalm 65 this summer.  While you wouldn’t be able to read my writing even if it was larger, you can see that my basic approach was to mediate on the Psalm by saying it over and over again.

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If you were to turn to the next page, you would see notes that I made while memorizing the Psalm – – ways that the Psalm moved me.

I appreciated this Psalm initially, but nowhere near the degree to which I savor it now.

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Why Psalm 65?

I chose Psalm 65 initially because of verse 6, “The one who established the mountains being girded with might.”  I was staying in the Lauterbrunnen valley (see below) at the time, arguably the most beautiful valley in Europe.  My goal was for the poetry of the Word of God to interpret the beauty for me so that I could move from the place of initial awe to one of worship.

What I discovered by memorizing the Psalm – – was that this is a Psalm about joy and happiness.  Indeed, the place where it moves the prayerful “meditator” is to one of celebration.

One of my favorite things to do in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was watch this cog wheel train wind its way up the side of the mountain.  It was as though I was watching a life-toy train.  What a joy to meditate on the truth that the Triune God established these mountains, being girded with might (Psalm 65:6).

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Which is the right Psalm for you to begin memorizing?  There are only 150 to choose from.  So it shouldn’t take that long to identify one.

Praise is due to you O God in Zion (Psalm 65:1a).

Use this Norman Rockwell image to picture several generations sitting around a Thanksgiving table.

Imagine that as the turkey is set in place, a mother says to her daughter, “Thank Grandma for the turkey.”

And, then picture that the little girl sasses in response, “I am not thanking grandma.  What did the old lady ever do for me?”

How do you suppose that you would process that in your home?

It makes one cringe just to think about it.  The debt that a family owes to the matriarch is incalculable.  Such ingratitude would be despicable.

If we understand that it is wrong to not thank the matriarch of a family, how much more should we see that a failure to thank God is despicable?

If you are looking for a verse for this week, think about this one. Psalm 84:11 says,

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Reflect on the picture that God is a “sun” and “shield.” The idea of God being the sun symbolizes power. To even look at the sun hurts our eyes. God is an atomic explosion. All power, light inaccessible hid from our eyes.

And, yet, the sun also brings the idea that God is not simply power in isolation. He shines into the lives of His people and as the verse says, offers us favor, or a better translation would be “grace,” and “honor,” or “glory.” The light of his goodness shines into every corner of His creation.

Not only is God a sun, but he is also a “shield.” So many different things can threaten our well-being. Many of you will hear this radio spot while you are in your cars. And, we know that over 40,000 people will probably die in car related accidents this year. Think about that. 40,000 people. Yet, God is a shield for those who know Him and trust in Him. As Psalm 91 says, “a thousand may fall at our side, ten thousand at our right hand, but it will not come near us,” and God commands his angels concerning those who fear Him.

Even when we do meet with tragedy or disaster, we can be sure that God is a sun and a shield for those whose walk is blameless.

No wonder the Psalmist says in the same Psalm, 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

If you need to be moved from one place emotionally to another: (1) Identify a Psalm that relates to your experience.  (2) Systematically memorize it over a period of time.  (3) As you do so, experience the movement of the Psalm and be transported by the Spirit in conjunction with the Word.

Psalms are poetry.  This means that they are truth to be experienced.  The idea with poetry is not that we simply learn objective truth.  Rather, poetry, particularly in the case of the Word of God,  transports us through an experience.

You might respond, “Well, when I read Psalms, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

We cannot experience poetry with a quick read.  Rather, we need to hear the Words – – to reflect on them – – to prayerfully take in delight at pondering the images.  There is no better way to accomplish this than through memorization.

*****************

But, how does one go about memorizing?  As I have posted in the past (see these posts), a system is needed.  (This post provides a concise summary of my approach).

Below are two pages from my moleskin that picture how I went about memorizing Psalm 65 this summer.  While you wouldn’t be able to read my writing even if it was larger, you can see that my basic approach was to mediate on the Psalm by saying it over and over again.

DSC_0554

If you were to turn to the next page, you would see notes that I made while memorizing the Psalm – – ways that the Psalm moved me.

I appreciated this Psalm initially, but nowhere near the degree to which I savor it now.

*************

Why Psalm 65?

I chose Psalm 65 initially because of verse 6, “The one who established the mountains being girded with might.”  I was staying in the Lauterbrunnen valley (see below) at the time, arguably the most beautiful valley in Europe.  My goal was for the poetry of the Word of God to interpret the beauty for me so that I could move from the place of initial awe to one of worship.

What I discovered by memorizing the Psalm – – was that this is a Psalm about joy and happiness.  Indeed, the place where it moves the prayerful “meditator” is to one of celebration.

One of my favorite things to do in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was watch this cog wheel train wind its way up the side of the mountain.  It was as though I was watching a life-toy train.  What a joy to meditate on the truth that the Triune God established these mountains, being girded with might (Psalm 65:6).

DSC_0031

Which is the right Psalm for you to begin memorizing?  There are only 150 to chose from.  So it shouldn’t take that long to identify one.

Psalms, too

Chris —  February 1, 2010 — 2 Comments

Along with reading the day’s chapter of Proverbs (today is the 1st so you’re reading Proverbs 1), it is a good discipline to read the day’s chapter of Psalms (and every 30th chapter after that.  So, today you read Psalms 1, 31, 61, 91, 121.

If you’re not up to 5 Psalms, at least read the 1st chapter.  There are two kinds of people in this Psalm.

  1. What distinguishes the blessed person from the wicked?
  2. Which are you going to be?

For more on Psalm 1, read There is No Third.

Whenever you read a chapter of Psalms, write the date in small letters at the top of the chapter.  This will allow you to track which Psalms you have meditated on the most.

God only knows.  But, he does know.  This is the point of Psalm 139.

Think of it this way on Sanctity of Life Sunday — When the Nazis gassed Jews and then incinerated them, the soot of image bearers curled into the air before falling over the land like coal dust.

No one remained clean.  A layer of human soot spoiled the soil.

And, whether or not the citizens of Dachau, Treblinka and Auschwitz tasted the human dust when it poisoned their cultural water, whether or not they saw the ash of the murdered when they swept it off their streets, whether or not they heard the muffled scream of human smoke, the God of heaven and earth, who knit the Holocaust victims together in their mother’s womb – – He knew, and knows, and will repay (Romans 12:19).

Read Psalm 139, the whole thing, and remember that God knows.