Over the course of the past few months, I had been speaking to our Pastor about the lack of “biblical literacy” or emphasis on just the New Testament in many evangelical circles. Personally, I think that only adhering to the New Testament ignores a lot of history, which shapes our understanding of the person and character of the Father.
Along those lines, I was also concerned that we – corporate – don’t have a deep understanding of the book of Psalms. Not just the individual chapters, but the origins of the chapters (historically, authors, etc.), the basic major and minor themes, and their relevance today.
Orignially, I wanted to present a few week series on the Psalms from the pulpit, but our Pastor had another idea: create a small group. Thus, this week we began our study of the Book of Psalms. However, instead of simply reading individual chapters and reflecting on the biblical history surrounding them, I took a different approach.
The Psalms aren’t just historical texts that were written thousands of years ago for those times alone – they are a blueprint for how we worship God. Not only in the context of Sunday mornings and “church gatherings;” but everyday. They teach us – through any occurrance – to turn our eyes on God in prayer, praise, adoration, lamentation and declare His goodness.
Psalms are meant to be a living experience, and thus our classs has approached this into writing our own Psalm. Each week, as we examine the major themes of Praise, Thanksgiving, Wisdom, Lamentations and Royalty, we finish by collectively penning our Psalm – a living Psalm in our own words that we own and affirm today.
Last night, we covered the Psalms of praise, examining chapters 92, 103 and 8 (in that order). In each, there are a few things that struck a chord:
Praise isn’t a mere statement
Psalms of praise – almost all of them – have the psalmists pouring their entire souls into worship. It’s not enough just to say that God’s good, but we should use every breath, every inch of our spirits, our bodies and voice to declare His awesomeness!
I could just imagine David (writing PS 103) stripping off his robes as he screams for his soul to bless God’s holy name. He’s throwing every inch of energy into praising the Lord.
Without praise, there’s only misery
In several instances, the psalmists talk about how any of God’s enemies will be crushed. It’s not just the physical enemies of Israel, but anyone who openly denies God. He has made Himself known throughout creation that no person can deny His goodness, so those who openly defy this will surely perish (PS 92).
There was a comparison I read in preparation that looked at the life of Howard Hughes (ala Spruce Goose fame). Throughout his life, he openly condemned people who believed in God, and even publicly challenged His very existance. In the end, and near death, Hughes had wasted away in misery – becoming a recluse and someone full of hatred for the world. No amount of money, or giant planes could satisfy his soul, and he is described as dying as a troubled soul.
The simplest words will do
The Psalms are also very plain-spoken. Sure, there’s artistic flourishes here and there, but they’re written in a way that anyone can understand – especially children – and we’re encouraged to have the same faith as kids. It’s rich, satisfied in the basisc qualities of God, and we can just rest to say “Lord, You are good!”
PS 8 adores God in his goodness – not in a way that vegetables, vitimins or prostate exams are “good for you.” But in a way that He can satisfy us in everything -and that we delight in praising Him for it. The same delight I feel when my daughter runs into my arms shouting “Daddy!!”
We closed our evening in reflection, and everyone wrote their own verse (or 6) to add to our Psalm of Praise. With that, here it is:
1Praise belong to you and only you, for you alone are worthy!
2Lord, you are bigger than the universe. You are stranger than the Sun and gravity! You set everything into perfect motion for your purpose.
3What am I? The gnat at your ear, the fly on Your windshield – yet You gently draw me in and set me beside You.
4You have given me dominion over the earth – over dust; over life itself. You trust the lowliest of creation to carry your name and I will bless it forever.
5Praise You for humbling me so that I may draw closer to You. Take my focus off of me and bring my focus clearly onto You.
6Give me a child’s heart to love with abandon; the faith of a baby to trust without fail. Let me be overjoyed at the sight of Your creation and all that You have given me.
7Praises you Father as You bless me with gifts of creation – from the smallest ant to the largest Hippo. Each weed has a purpose, each star a name, because You are great!
8Thank You for Your truth and grace flowing abundantly on all who seek You. Thank you Jesus for your spirit which flows through me to bless the poor in spirit.
9Your love is deep and amazing, embracing me every step. Leading me, following me, never leaving my side. You continually pour out so many blessings and endless lovingkindness that I overflow in your goodness!
10You fill my soul with your truth and grace. Praise you Lord, and may Your love and encouragement to be known to all who seek You.
What verse would you write?