Studying Psalm 150

Hello, Friend. It’s nice that you made it back again.

Two weeks ago, I studied Psalm 1. It seems appropriate to study the last Psalm in the book now, Psalm 150.

401px-Jerusalem_Tomb_of_David_BW_1

In David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, the casket is laden with cloth with Psalm 150 embroidered on it. Source.

Observation: Repeated Word and Repeated Line

Last week, when studying Psalm 46, I provided a list of things to look for when studying the Bible. This week, I want to bring up a repeated word: praise.

I tend to notice repeated words because they pop out to me and can be important. In Psalm 150, the Psalmist uses the word 13 times in the brief 6-verse Psalm.

Furthermore, each time that “praise” is used, the word directly links to God.

The Psalm also begins and ends with the same verse. This is an example of repetition, which is often employed in literature. Literaturedevices.net says that repetition “stresses on the point of main significance,” which I think is the goal of the Psalmist in this case. While literaturedevices.com doesn’t provide a unique name for this type of repetition, it does provide interesting nuggets on the subject.

Asking Questions: What does “sanctuary” mean?

The Psalmist gives the following instructions in verse 1.

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty heavens!

My question was simply, “What does ‘his sanctuary’ mean?” This question seems important since this verse gives the Where aspect of where we should praise God.

So I did some digging. I read online commentaries and found several opinions.

Generally, Bible commentators speculate that sanctuary could mean “in his holy places,” which many believe refers to the temple. Biblestudytools.com and Biblehub.com both provide several commentaries that expound on this idea.

In the time when the Psalmist wrote Psalm 150, it seems appropriate to instruct people to praise God in the temple. However, in this new time without a temple, I think God would extend “His sanctuary” to include every believer.

Based on the commentaries, the argument for the temple is that God should be praised where He dwells, which would be the temple. But, on several occasions, Paul says that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and that we are like the temple when filled with the Holy Spirit.

Here’s my thought: when the Psalmist wrote Psalm 150, he probably meant that we should praise God in the temple because that is where God dwelt. But since our bodies are like a temple and the Holy Spirit dwells in us now, I think we should praise God everywhere.

Perhaps my theology isn’t sound, but it’s an argument. Would you support or challenge my thoughts? I’d like to hear from you.

Interpretation: Where… Why… How… Who…  should we praise?

I dabbled into interpretation in my Asking Questions section, but that is a normal response to asking questions.

After all that work, I confess that much of this section was borrowed from the November 27, 2014, entry from Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional.

Julie Ackerman Link breaks down Psalm 150 succinctly, saying that Psalm 150 gives “a lesson in praising the Lord.” She answers the following questions:

  • Where should we praise?
  • Why should we praise?
  • How should we praise?
  • Who should praise?

I encourage you to reference her article since it is very brief, but essentially she says that everybody should praise God, everywhere and in all ways.

biblical_instruments

Several of the instruments described in Psalm 150 are shown in this picture, which I have borrowed from goodsalt.com. This image belongs to them. Source.
Instruments, from top, left to right: reed pipe, trumpet, timbrel, cymbals, lute, harp, zither, lyre, shofar, organ.

Application: Praising God

The application seems very straightforward to me. Psalm 150 says to praise God everywhere in all ways. Therefore, the application should be to praise God.

We should praise God everywhere.

We should praise God because of who He is.

We should praise God in all ways.

And “everything that has breath” should praise the Lord (verse 6).

What other applications could you find in Psalm 150?

Conclusion

What else piqued your interest in Psalm 150? I would love to hear a response below.

At this time, I confess that my blog posts will either be slowing or completely stopping with this week. Due to a change in circumstances, I may not be able to produce these on a weekly basis.

Therefore, I thank you for your readership and your support for my blog. I have greatly enjoyed studying the Psalms, and I hope you gained something from it. Be sure to leave responses on any post or to recommend a Psalm that I should do next, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Until next time, I leave you as Paul would:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:28)

Next Week: To Be Announced

Published in: |on December 1st, 2014 |No Comments »

Studying Psalm 46

Welcome back again!

Last week, I went to the beginning and explored Psalm 1. Next week, I will take a look at Psalm 150, the last one in the book.

But this week, I explore Psalm 46, which my Bible titles “God is Our Fortress.” If you have thoughts or comments, please share. I’d love to hear from you.

Observation: Repeated Verse

I noticed the theme of God’s provision in spite of everything that can rise against. But I will touch on that later because I want to mention a repeated verse.

One way to observe the Bible is to look for repetition. Usually single words or short phrases are repeated, but Psalm 46 has an entire verse repeated. Think back to when we studied Psalm 136, and you’ll remember that when the Bible repeats something, it is usually important.

At the end of the second stanza, the Psalmist gives the following verse:

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The previous verse describes raging nations, tottering kingdoms, and God’s powerful voice. The Psalmist promises that God is with us and will protect us like a fortress.

This exact verse is repeated at the end of Psalm 46 because the Psalmist wants to emphasize that God is our fortress.

There are other good things to observe too:

  • Themes
  • Background info
    • Who? What? When? Where? Why?
  • Action verbs
  • Verb tenses
  • Transition words
  • Conjunctions

What types of things did you observe in this passage?

Asking Questions: What does Selah mean?

Every time that I read a Psalm that uses “Selah” in it, I always ask this question, always find some answer, and always forget it. Thankfully, I have Google at my fingertips when I need answers.

If you were to type “selah meaning” into your browser, you would find thousands of articles voicing their opinions. Here is what I gathered:

  1. Wikipedia admits that the meaning of Selah is unknown, though it likely corresponds to music since it only appears in Psalms “to the choirmaster.”
  2. Gotquestions.org says that Selah signifies something that should be pondered and thought about, though the author also admits that the meaning is officially unknown.
  3. Now The End Begins (NTEB) published an article that correlates Selah to verses predicting the second coming of Christ. The article blatantly dismisses the notion that the word means to ponder.
  4. And for kicks, dictionary.com says that Selah either instructs the musicians to raise their voices or to pause. (That seems conflicting somehow.)

I recommend any of these pages for further contemplation. Which is your favorite? Personally, I think NTEB backs its theory well, but it doesn’t feel quite right, so I lean toward the gotquestions.org answer.

the-red-rock-city-of-selah-petra

Selah Petra is a real place on earth, which NTEB uses as evidence for its theory. This image belongs to NTEB. Source.

Interpretation: We Can Take Comfort in Trying Times

I had a conversation with an elder that I respect, and I mentioned that I am studying Psalm 46 this week. He looked at it and emphatically said the point is that we can take comfort that God is our refuge and strength, as stated in verse 1.

I agree.

The Psalmist provides vivid descriptions of disasters: the earth gives way, mountains fall into the sea, waters roar, nations rage, kingdoms totter. (Need I go on?)

And yet, the Psalmist promises that God “makes war cease to the end of the earth” (verse 9); He helps “when morning dawns” (verse 5); and “we will not fear” despite those terrifying events (verse 2).

Psalm 46 describes some terrifying things, but it is a Psalm that should comfort us too.

Application: Be Still and Know

Let me immediately transition into the application section.

Verse 10 is given in quotes in the ESV Bible. I believe this is because the Psalmist switches voices in verse 10, giving words in God’s voice:

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

If the point of Psalm 46 is that God protects us like a fortress against everything, then verse 10 is a terrific place to look for an application. The instructions are simple.

Be still.

Be still and know that God is God. He may be terrifying when He brings “desolations on the earth” (verse 8), but He will be with us and be our fortress. We can take comfort in that and should rest in that. We should be still.

800px-Koropye_fortress_entrance

When I think of a fortress, I think of thick walls and an easily-guarded door, like this place in Russia. Source.

Conclusion

Perhaps Psalm 46 met you in a different way. You may have gone a completely different direction. Maybe you looked at this Psalm from a historical standpoint, researching the context that this Psalm was written in. If you have another angle on this Psalm, I would love to hear from you.

Next Week: Psalm 150

Published in: |on November 22nd, 2014 |No Comments »

Studying Psalm 1

“Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start.”

So sings Maria in The Sound of Music (1965).

Perhaps I should have begun my study at Psalm 1, but I do not regret the path that I’ve taken. Now I return to the first Psalm and invite you to follow along.

You know the format by now, so please chime in with questions or comments you may have.

Observation: Correlation in the Psalm

This Psalm, which my ESV Bible calls “The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked,” focuses entirely on this idea of good versus bad.

Psalm 1 can be divided into three parts:

  1. The way of the righteous (v. 1-3)
  2. The way of the wicked (v. 4-5)
  3. God’s response (v. 6)

The Psalmist builds up what a righteous person will do: won’t dwell with wicked people, will follow God’s law, will think on God’s Word, and will be rooted in God (like a tree).

Conversely, wicked people will not stand in company of righteous people. While the Psalmist doesn’t directly state this, we can infer that wicked people do not follow God’s law or think on God’s Word.

Lastly, God knows who follows Him and will not forsake them. Meanwhile, the wicked shall perish.

800px-Nockamixon_State_Park_Tree_by_the_water

The Psalmist says a righteous man is like a tree by a stream. Image Source.

Asking Questions: What does ____ mean?

I found the ESV translation confusing because some words were used in unfamiliar ways. For example, the ESV reads, “Nor stands in the way of the wicked” in verse 1, which I misread as someone who doesn’t impede the wicked. However, in this structure, it means someone who does not stand with wicked people.

This could be confusing. That is why I link to the ESV and NIV translations every week; so that you can reference both. In this case, I strongly recommend reading both.

Some Christians recommend using more than one translation of the Bible when studying. Daniel B. Wallace writes a comprehensive piecewhere he recommends which translations would be good additions to your library.

This can help you receive a fuller picture of the Bible. I would encourage you to check out the NIV for Psalm 1.

Interpretation: A Taboo Topic

I’m going to step onto a soapbox for a minute.

In our modern world where everyone accepts one another, taking a stance on righteousness and wickedness has become taboo. People are told to not correct one another because it is judgmental.

But this Psalmist paints a clear picture of righteousness and wickedness. They both exist, and they are very different in this Psalm. This is a common message in the Bible. And it is not something to be ignored.

As I step down from my soapbox, I’ll remind you that this is just one way to translate this Psalm into a useful, applicable passage. What are other ways to interpret this Psalm?

Application: Long Term Promises

One important thing is to not read into a Psalm too much. Psalm 1 talks about what will happen to the righteous and the wicked long term.

What it does not say is that righteous people will always have an easy life without problems. Sometimes life is hard. And sometimes wicked people experience blessings. But those who are righteous can take comfort that God knows who they are and will not forsake them.

QuoModoDeum

The All Seeing Eye of God is an image that comes from the idea that God can see all things. I talked about this in my study of Psalm 139, actually. This image also shows up on the American dollar bill, called the Eye of Providence. Image Source.

Conclusion

Maybe you saw something different in the Psalm. Did you see something that I didn’t? Do you have a question about the text? Please share in the comments section. This is a short Psalm, but there is a lot to think about.

Next Week: Psalm 46

Published in: |on November 15th, 2014 |No Comments »

Studying Psalm 121

Welcome back!

First off, thank you to Emily for her encouraging comment. I agree that understanding the context of Scripture “intensifies” the meaning, as you said. It is easy to take Psalms out of context, so I like providing it when I know it.

This week’s study is on Psalm 121. As has been the case, please leave a comment about anything that interests you about the Psalm or this study.

Observation: Names and Qualities of God

Psalm 121 is about God protecting His people, the point of the whole Psalm. The Psalmist gives many names and qualities for God in his praise.

  • Creator: “made heaven and earth” (verse 2)
  • Helper: “He will not let your foot be moved” (verse 3)
  • Keeper: “The Lord is your keeper” (verse 5)
  • Protector: “The Lord will keep you from all evil” (verse 7)

What are some other names for God that you see used in this passage?

Asking Questions: What does “A Song of Ascents” mean?

You may have noticed that Psalm 121 is called “A Song of Ascents.” When I saw it, I wondered what that meant. Here is what I found.

Fifteen Psalms are given the title “Song of Ascents” in the Bible. These include Psalms 120 through 134. This is a collection of short Psalms which are especially well suited to be sung because of their poetic form.

For more about this, I glanced around the Wikipedia page about Song of Ascents. Wikipedia, though criticized often, can be a nice springboard into a topic and provides sources to more information.

For a more in-depth look, Dr. David L. Cooper explores what scholars say. While his article is actually about Psalm 120, Dr. Cooper provides several interesting theories about the name “Song of Ascents”.

443px-Song_of_ascents,_manuscript_on_parchmen_france

This is actually Psalm 125, but this is still a 13th century manuscript on parchment from France. Image Source

Interpretation: God Never Sleeps and is Always Present

Two more attributes of God shown in Psalm 121 are these:

  • God never sleeps (verse 4)
  • God is always present (verse 5)

I had a conversation with an elder in my life, and he says that “these attributes of God are important to Jewish and Christian religions, which looks to God as all knowing, all present, and all powerful.”

It is vitally important that God be present everywhere at all times, day or night, for Christians to believe that He can protect them. The Psalmist here proclaims that God will always keep Israel, His people, safe. As a Christian myself, I can take comfort in that.

Application: Suited for Singing

As I mentioned earlier, Psalm 121 is well suited to being sung. In fact, Psalm 121 has been written to music before.

One example I’m familiar with is “I Lift My Eyes Up” by Brian Doerksen as covered by rock and worship band Kutless. Doerksen uses the first two verses of Psalm 121 and then proclaims, “How I need you Lord, you are my only hope, you’re my only prayer.”

I encourage you to check out Doerksen’s song on YouTube.

If you like a more contemporary style, Kutless does a powerful rendition of Doerksen’s song. I am more familiar with this version, and it’s a personal favorite worship song.

463px-Sumrall

Jon Micah Sumrall is the lead singer for the contemporary worship/alternative rock band, Kutless. They do a cover of Brian Doerksen’s “I Life My Eyes Up.” Image Source

Conclusion

What other ways could you apply this Psalm? What other ways could Psalm 121 be interpreted? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I want to join in conversation with you.

Next Week: Psalm 1

Published in: |on November 7th, 2014 |2 Comments »

Studying Psalm 136

Greetings.

Have the Psalms impacted your life? Or have the Psalms never interested you and seemed silly? Either way, I hope you have and will find them challenging and rewarding. I invite you to share your reactions in the comments below.

This week, I am studying Psalm 136. I am starting on my fifth Psalm, which is also the first Psalm in this study not written by David.

Observation: Structure/Sections

This Psalmist divides Psalm 136 into several distinct sections.

  • Give Thanks, v. 1-3
  • Creation, v. 4-9
  • Egypt, v. 10-16
  • Kings, v. 17-22
  • He Remembers Us, v. 23-25
  • Give Thanks, v. 26

Psalm 136 acts as a history lesson. For further reading, I returned to Genesis 1, the familiar story of creation that the Psalmist describes as “great wonders” done by God.

After you’ve read Genesis 1, I suggest that you look at Exodus 11-14, which covers the tenth plague on Egypt and Israel crossing the Red Sea under Moses’ guidance, and Numbers 21, where the Israelites have victory over many kings.

480px-Rembrandt_-_Moses_with_the_Ten_Commandments_-_Google_Art_Project

Rembrandt, the famous Dutch painter during the Renaissance, depicted Moses carrying the ten commandments above his head.
This image may be retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_-_Moses_with_the_Ten_Commandments_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Asking Questions: What does “steadfast love” that “endures forever” mean?

I have a vague idea of how the dictionary defines these words separately, but I wanted to understand them together.

By doing a search with Google, I found a short post from Grace Incarnate Ministries about the phrase. It is copyrighted 1995 to Reverend Gregory S. Neal.

While this commentary actually uses Psalm 118 and Psalm 31, it still talks about the same phrase, which is a common one across the Psalms. I encourage you to check it out.

Interpretation: The Structure of Psalm 136

Earlier, I showed that this Psalm has distinct sections. I want to look deeper at those sections. What does the Psalmist want us to understand from these specific examples?

First off, remember this is an Old Testament context where Jesus has not yet died for the sins of the world. Even without that, the Psalmist shows an amazing picture of what God has accomplished from Genesis to Numbers.

  • God created us (Creation)
  • We fell into bondage (Egypt)
  • He delivered us (Out of Egypt)
  • He brought us into our inheritance (Kings)
  • And He sustains us (He remembers us)

God has been faithful to Israel from the beginning, and He “remembered us in our low estate” (verse 23).

Application: Give Thanks

For an application, I looked back to “for his steadfast love endures forever,” which is repeated in every verse.

Reverend Neal says the phrase “speaks to us of the powerful, firm, trustworthy, tenacious, never ending love of God.” The Psalmist in 136 continually emphasizes that God does these things because of this love.

In response to God’s love, the Psalmist begins Psalm 136 with the same idea: give thanks to God.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
 
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

The idea behind Psalm 136 is to praise God for what He has done, like Psalm 8.

Flickr 8723192921_52d70c9055_o

Psalm 136 is popular enough that one Flickr user posted this text.
This image may be retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/quoteseverlasting/8723192921/

Conclusion

I hope Psalm 136 interested you. Be sure to tell me what you thought of the passage.

Also, please suggest how I can improve this blog to best serve you.

Next Week: Psalm 121

Published in: |on November 1st, 2014 |1 Comment »

Studying Psalm 51

Hello, friend!

What a pleasure to have you return. I hope that Psalm 8 interested you and that you engaged with the theme of praise in it.

This week, we are studying Psalm 51, yet another Psalm of David.

Psalm 51 is about confession. David humbles himself before God and asks God to forgive him and change him.

Observation: Clear Structure

I noticed that David’s confession has five distinct sections:

  • Mercy and Cleansing, v. 1-2
  • Confession, v. 3-6
  • Asking for Healing, v. 7-12
  • Declaring God’s Goodness, v. 13-17
  • Offering Good Sacrifices, v. 18-19

Once I noticed this clear structure, I found it much easier to read the passage because I could break it into chunks. I thought this might help you study it, too.

Observation #2: Synonyms for Cleansing

David rephrased the same idea in multiple ways: he wanted God to cleanse him. I picked out six different phrases that he used.

  • Blot out
  • Wash thoroughly
  • Cleanse
  • Purge
  • Wash
  • Renew

David also asked God to “hide [his] face from my sins” (verse 9) and to “create in me a clean heart” (verse 10).

David must have used a thesaurus to get all of these synonyms for cleansing. To me, this emphasizes his strong desire to be made clean. (Of course, that gets into interpretation.)

Asking Questions: What is Hyssop?

Okay, so this is not a profound question, but I really wanted to know what “hyssop” is, as used in verse 7:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Like many college students, I immediately looked up hyssop on Wikipedia. It turns out that hyssop is an herb used for medical purposes that historically has been important to a couple religions.

The Wikipedia article linked to an academic journal article about hyssop. Authors Alexander Fleisher and Zhenia Fleisher—who are probably related somehow—tried to identify hyssop as used in the Bible, claiming that it may have actually been one or more different herbs. Unfortunately for my curiosity and yours, this article costs as much as $39.95.

What types of questions do you have from Psalm 51, profound or not-so-profound?

339px-Illustration_Hyssopus_officinalis0449px-Hyssopus_officinalis_001

 

On the left is an illustration of hyssop from an 1885 German book. On the right is a hyssop plant with purple flowers.
Left Image may be retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Hyssopus_officinalis0.jpg
Right Image may be retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hyssopus_officinalis_001.JPG

Interpretation: Good Sacrifices

In verses 16-19, David talks about offering sacrifices to God. I was surprised by verse 16:

16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

In an Old Testament context, the Israelites would offer sacrifices when they repented of sins. But this verse struck me as a really radical thought. Then I came across verse 19:

19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

I felt a little confused even when I looked at the rest of the verses, so I talked to a friend of mine about this. Here are some of our thoughts.

With the rest of the Psalm as context, we came to the conclusion that David will declare God’s goodness because that will be a good sacrifice for God. David seems to say that his sacrifices will not please God unless his heart is in the right place.

Does that make sense to you? Would you agree or disagree?

Application: Method for Confessing Sins

When looking for a way to use this Psalm, I look back at the structure of it. David gives a really good method for how to confess one’s sins to God. Just as Psalm 8 worked well as a Psalm of Praise, this is a terrific Psalm to use when confessing to God.

Conclusion and Response

What did you think of Psalm 51? What were some of the things it made you think of? Please be sure to comment.

Next Week: Psalm 136

Published in: |on October 25th, 2014 |No Comments »

Studying Psalm 8

Welcome!

Today marks four weeks of using this blog. Last week, I announced that I would be studying Psalm 8. A natural question is this: Why?

First off, Psalm 8 is only nine verses, so it is relatively short.

Secondly, Psalm 8 is an excellent example of a Psalm of Praise.

Third, Psalm 8 might be more familiar to you because it is referenced twice in the New Testament.

  1. Verse 2 is cited by Jesus in Matthew 21:15-16
  2. Verses 4-5 is cited in Hebrews 2:5-9

In addition, different songs incorporate verses from Psalm 8. Because of its popularity, I chose it for this week’s study. Where have you seen Psalm 8 used?

Observation: Creation Reference

In verses 5-8, David (the Psalmist) writes that God gave man “dominion” on earth over “the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea.” This directly corresponds with Genesis 1:28, which is the part of the creation story where God just finished creating man.

I immediately noticed the reference to Genesis. I find it interesting that David uses this in this Psalm of Praise. Clearly, David feels awe that God would give mankind authority on earth over the animals, and he offers it up as praise.

800px-Psalms-8-1_-_Virginia_-_ForestWander

Psalm 8 has inspired many people to put verses from it on picturesque backgrounds of creation.
This image may be retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Psalms-8-1_-_Virginia_-_ForestWander.jpg

Asking Questions: “Strength” vs “Praise”

I mentioned that Jesus quotes this Psalm, but he actually changes it slightly. Compare the passage in Matthew to the original Psalm.

Matthew 21:15-16 (ESV)

15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”

Psalm 8:2 (ESV)

    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

This causes me to ask a couple questions. Should we assume that Jesus doesn’t know what he means since he “misquoted” the Bible, or should we assume that Jesus had a special reason for changing the words?

What types of questions does it make you ask? Maybe you want to know more about the original texts, which would have been written in Greek and Hebrew and perhaps translated poorly. Or maybe you wonder what Jesus might be meaning. Please comment below with thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think.

Interpretation: Misunderstood Authority

Going back to verse 6, God gives mankind dominion/authority over animals on earth. I think this gets misunderstood. I think people read this and think Christians believe they own the world and can do anything they want. I also think that some Christians believe that too.

However, when God gives mankind dominion over the earth, alternative word choices could have been authority or responsibility. I believe that mankind actually has responsibility to care for the earth. It is important to understand this difference because it changes how the world should view Christians and how Christians should view the world.

Application: Sing Praises

As I mentioned above, Psalm 8 has been used in several songs. I can think of two songs off the top of my head.

Because this is a Psalm of Praise, I think the best way to use it is to send it up as praise to God.

How would you apply this Psalm?

Keithgreen

Keith Green was an active Christian musician in the late 1970’s
This image may be retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keithgreen.jpg

Conclusion

Thank you for participating in my blog post this week. I look forward to hearing what you think about Psalm 8.

Next Week: Psalm 51

Published in: |on October 18th, 2014 |No Comments »

Studying Psalm 139

Hello!

Thank you for visiting my blog. To recap, I am Grant, and I am doing a manuscript study of assorted Psalms. To learn about my goals for this blog or what I mean by manuscript study, please reference my first blog post.

Introducing Psalm 139

Last week, I announced that I would be studying Psalm 139, another Psalm written by Israelite King David. For my study, I will use the English Standard Version.

Observation: Contrasting Words

In this Psalm, David uses contrasting words, which gives depth to his points. Below are some examples.

  • 2a You know when I sit down and when I rise up
  • 3a You search out my path and my lying down
  • 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
  • 9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea

David also contrasts light and dark in verses 11 and 12.

These contrasts give an effect.

By saying that God knows when he sits or stands (verse 2), David tells God that He knows everything that David does.

Similarly, God provides David with a path and with a sleeping place (verse 3).

In the last two examples, David knows that he will find God at the greatest depths or greatest heights, and everywhere between too.

Themes: “Know,” “Search,” and “Hand”

David opens and closes this Psalm with the concept of God searching and knowing.

In verse 1, David says that God has already searched and known him.  At the end of the Psalm, in verse 23, David calls for God to test him by searching him and knowing his heart.

Another theme involves God’s hand, which David says will lead him (verse 10) and hold him safe (verses 5 and 10).

Asking Questions: What is Sheol?

In verse 8, David contrasts two distinct places, declaring that God could find him in either place.

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

After reading this verse, I felt curious about what David meant by Sheol.

I searched online and found that Sheol means Hell, and it is roughly equivalent to how the Bible uses Hades in the New Testament.

I also found a comprehensive article from the Berean Bible Society website that defines Sheol, Hades, and other words very precisely. The article is lengthy but fascinating and clear.

Interpretation: We cannot flee God

In verse 7, David poses a question: where can he go to escape God?

He goes on to say that he can go to heaven or Hell, into the sky or the sea, and God would still find him. Not only would God find him, David writes that God’s “hand shall lead me” and “hold me.”

This applies to us too. No matter where we try to hide our face, God can find us. This is because God is present everywhere, or omnipresent, which is an attribute of God.

Application: A Challenge from Verses 23 and 24

Every time that I read Psalm 139, I pause at the final two verses.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

David uses choice action verbs and challenges God to really look at him.

  • Search me
  • Know my heart
  • Try me
  • Know my thoughts
  • See what’s grievous in me
  • Lead me in the way everlasting

David tells God to find everything wrong in his life and to lead him out of it. To do this, David invites God to know him intimately by knowing both David’s heart and thoughts. It takes humility to allow someone access to your heart’s desires and innermost thoughts

As a Christian, I feel called to accept David’s challenge. What grievous ways exist in my life? I invite God to lead me in “the way everlasting,” the way that leads to eternal life.

Wrapping Up

Thank you for following along with me. What important parts of Psalm 139 did I leave out? Please respond in the comments.

Next Week: Psalm 8

Tekstbord_Psalm_139_vers_1-5,_voorzijde_-_Maasland_-_20144484_-_RCE

Psalm 139 is known around the world, as this plaque is inscribed in the Dutch language that appears in Maasland, Netherlands.
This image may be retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tekstbord_Psalm_139_vers_1-5,_voorzijde_-_Maasland_-_20144484_-_RCE.jpg
Published in: |on October 11th, 2014 |1 Comment »

Studying Psalm 23

Greetings!

Thank you for returning to my blog. To review, my name is Grant and I will be doing a manuscript study of assorted Psalms. To learn my goals for this blog or what I mean by manuscript study, please reference my first blog post.

Introducing Psalm 23

Today I chose to study Psalm 23. Colloquially called “The Shepherd Psalm,” this Psalm was written by David, the second king of Israel. For my study, I will use the English Standard Version (ESV).

Observations: Modifiers and Metaphors

Step one in manuscripting involves observing the text. I was struck by the imagery in Psalm 23. When reading verse 2, I noticed some good adjectives:

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures

He leads me beside still waters

While “pastures” and “waters” act as good nouns, David added excellent adjectives that create an image. In my mind, I see lush grasses blown by a soft breeze with a cool pool where fish occasionally leap into the air. Perhaps this image is not accurate to David, who did not live in the Midwest, but the image helps me imagine the Psalm.

This Psalm includes other good modifiers:

  • “paths of righteousness” (verse 3) and
  • “valley of the shadow of death” (verse 4).

I also observed that the first four verses follow a shepherd theme:

  • pastures,
  • paths, and
  • staff.

The last two verses use a feast metaphor

  • table and
  • house.

Asking Questions: Rod and Staff

In verse 4, David writes that “your rod and staff, they comfort me.” I wondered if a rod and staff were different objects or the same.

To me, a rod sounded like a straight object that could be used as a weapon; a staff sounded like the stick with a crook that we always see in pictures of shepherds.

To answer this question, I searched online and found a Q/A board that answered the question. The answers support my musings. Contributor Bob Jones makes a good point:

“Addressing the idea that they are one tool, this is unlikely. An animal associates discomfort and pleasure with the object that causes it. If you use a rod to discipline an animal, it will shy from it, making the tool useless for comforting it. It is important that the two tools are visibly different.” (June 30, 2012)

Interpretation: use of “follow”

While discussing my blog post with my brother, he pointed to verse 6a:

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life,

To provide background, the Bible was not originally written in English, so the Psalms were translated from Hebrew.

In translating, the word “follow” loses some of its intensity. Whereas English speakers think of “follow” like a lost puppy that trails you after you feed it, David used an intense word. The translation is correct, but poor. A better word could have been “hunt” or “pursue.”

Think about that: David says that goodness and mercy will definitely hunt/pursue him for the rest of his life. Talk about an intense image! I can take comfort in that.

Application: Fearlessness

When I read this Psalm, the first half of verse 4 sticks out to me:

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

David writes that he will be fearless even though everything is against him. The internet made this verse famous in the meme of a live chicken in front of KFC. But in a serious sense, David boldly declares that he will be fearless. To me, that is a challenge and worth applying to my life. Since I am a Christian, I should be fearless because God is my shepherd and will prepare a feast for me.

Wrapping Up

Thank you for following along with me. What important parts of Psalm 23 did I breeze through too quickly? Feel free to contribute in the comments.

Next Week: Psalm 139

The_Sunday_at_Home_1880_-_Psalm_23_compressed

This image is from The Sunday at Home magazine, an 1880 volume. The contributor is unknown, but may be Edward Evans. This image may be retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sunday_at_Home_1880_-_Psalm_23.jpg
Published in: |on October 4th, 2014 |No Comments »

So you’re Contemplating the Psalms?

Salutations!

My name is Grant, and I will be Contemplating the Psalms for the coming nine weeks.

I am a senior in college who was raised in a Christian home. I believe that Psalms contains beautiful poetry, excellent morals, and relatable topics. Christians study Psalms because they seek wisdom, but anybody can appreciate the laments and triumphs told in Psalms. Psalms is worth reading and studying.

Why should I read your blog?

I will be studying Psalms for deep meanings because I believe Psalms is more than mere literature. However, I do not intend to preach from this platform either.

I want to welcome a diverse audience to explore Psalms with me, regardless of their denomination within Christianity and regardless of whether they claim the Christian faith. I hope to engage anybody in a conversation about the smattering of Psalms that I will study.

How will your blog work?

In four years of being involved at college with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I learned a method for studying the Bible called manuscripting. Manuscripting focuses on these elements:

  • Context
  • Word choice
  • Syntax and tone
  • Repetition
  • Themes

Since I am an English major, manuscripting resonates with me because it focuses on language.

Manuscripting follows four distinct steps:

  1. Observe what the text says
  2. Ask good questions
  3. Interpret the passage
  4. Apply it to my life

I will exercise all of these steps.

Anything else?

I sincerely hope that you enjoy Contemplating the Psalms with me. Be sure to comment if you want me to study a specific Psalm.

What’s next?

Next week, I will study Psalm 23.

"The Psalms" by Wenceslas Hollar available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wenceslas_Hollar_-_The_Psalms.jpg
The Psalms by Wenceslas Hollar available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wenceslas_Hollar_-_The_Psalms.jpg
Published in: |on September 27th, 2014 |No Comments »