Today, we begin a series from one of my favorite sections of Scripture, the Psalms. Although we will only be able to scratch the surface, I hope we all will get a sense of the depth of the spirituality in the Psalms. The Psalms are replete with passionate conversations between people of faith and God. They teach us that there is always hope, even in the midst of darkness.
One of the resources we (this is one of those occasional series Joleen and I collaborate on) are using for this series in Walter Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms. Brueggemann says the Psalms "are a voice of the gospel, God’s good word addressed to God’s faithful people.” He also says, “The Psalms are profoundly subversive of the dominant culture, which wants to deny and cover over the darkness we are called to enter.”
There are various ways of looking at the Psalms. Each method helps us consider different things, and see the Psalms in different ways. For this series, we’ll talk about the Psalms using the categories Brueggemann suggests …
Orientation > Disorientation > New Orientation
(Songs of creation > Songs of disarray > Songs of surprising new life)
There are two movements here …
Orientation > Disorientation
This movement represents, not just a changed situation, but an awareness of the changed situation, accompanied by a rush of (negative) emotions.
Disorientation > New Orientation
This movement takes place when a surprising new awareness of hope arises, which is a gift from God. The thanksgiving Psalms fit in this category.
So, as we "journey through the Psalms," we’ll consider some examples of different types of Psalms:
- A Well-Ordered World (Psalm 19)
- In a Strange Land (Psalm 137)
- How Long? (Psalm 13)
- God is on Our Side (Psalm 124)
- The Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)
FYI, Joleen and I will switch places in two weeks. She will deliver the message on Psalm 13, "How Long?" and I will go to her churches to deliver the message on Psalm 137, "In a Strange Land."
Psalms of Orientation
In the Psalms of orientation, God is known to be reliable and trustworthy. God is the firm foundation upon which everything else is built. God is the internal compass that gives one the sense that somehow everything is going to be alright.
In Psalm 19, there’s a movement from the big picture (i.e. macrocosm) all the way down to the extremely personal condition/situation (i.e microcosm). It’s a movement from the universe to the individual, honing in and focusing on the deepest, hidden matters of the heart.
Psalm 19.1-6 — The Praise of God in Creation (General Revelation)
Interestingly, God is named only once in this opening section, using a general name (El), "god."
God’s Creation is truly amazing, isn’t it? I like the statement made by a Sports Illustrated writer. He was frustrated with the huge egos of star athletes, when he wrote the following …
“It may help to remember that you are a human being. And as uniquely gifted as you are, there are over six billion other uniquely gifted humans on earth. Add to this the fact that earth is only one of nine planets orbiting the sun, and the sun is only one of several billion stars in the Milky Way, and remember that the Milky Way is only one of thirty galaxies in its local galaxy cluster, and this cluster is only one of the many inconceivably vast vergo super clusters, and that the inconceivably vast vergo super cluster is scarcely anything at all, just an infinitesimal dust mite in an ever expanding universe.” (Steve Rushing, Sports Illustrated)
Psalm 19.7-11 — The Praise of God in Torah (Scripture) (Special Revelation)
In the previous section, God was named once in a less personal way ("god"); in the remainder of the Psalm, God is named seven times, using his revealed name, "Yahweh."
A Well-Ordered World
In this Psalm we see the well-ordered world that God created. Life, too, is well-ordered because God has spoken to us and given us his Word. It is a well-ordered world because God created it that way from the beginning. And he gave us his Word so that we could know how best to live.
Psalm 19.12-14 — Response to Revelation
What is our response to God’s amazing revelation? When we truly encounter God, we recognize our own sinfulness (think about Isaiah’s encounter with God is Isaiah 6). Here the Psalmist’s response was a desire to be found "pleasing" or "acceptable" to God. This term is often found in sacrificial contexts. Upon encountering God, we desire to offer our lives to God as "living sacrifices"!
May the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts be pleasing to the Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.